Sydney: Wider hips can reduce chances of premature death by protecting against metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
"We knew that higher hip circumference was protective against metabolic diseases such as diabetes as well as death," Adrian Cameron from Deakin University, study co-author.
"However, we did not know that taking waist and hip circumference into account separately (as opposed to using the waist-to-hip ratio) would reveal such a powerful association between obesity and mortality," added Cameron, the International Journal of Epidemiology reports.
"In other words, a person with big hips and a small waist is at the lowest end of the risk scale and people with small hips and a large waist are at the highest risk," said Cameron, according to a Deakin statement.
By looking at the relationship between waist and hip circumference in a 20-year study of almost 8,000 Mauritians, the research is also the first ever study to link obesity to mortality in a South Asian population.
Paul Zimmet, professor at Baker IDI, Australia, had initiated the study in Mauritius almost 25 years ago. Researchers from Australia, Sweden, Mauritius, Finland, the UK and Denmark, collaborated on the study.
"By accounting for the protective effect of hip circumference, we are able to isolate the negative health risks of central (abdominal) obesity which is measured by the waist circumference," said Stefan Soderberg associate professor, from Umeå University, Sweden.
"It appears that this form of obesity is more dangerous than we ever thought, particularly in this South Asian population," added Soderberg.
"I think we all need to realise that the waist circumference is only half the story when it comes to obesity. Hip circumference is clearly just as important and when we consider them both, that`s when we see just how dangerous obesity really is," concluded Paul Zimmet, professor at International Research at Baker IDI, Australia.