How does the association of general and central adiposity with glycaemia and blood pressure differ by gender and area of residence in a Malawian population: a cross-sectional study.

Mudie, K. ; Lawlor, D.A. ; Pearce, N. ; Crampin, A. ; Tomlinson, L. ; Tafatatha, T. ; Musicha, C. ; Nitsch, D. ; Smeeth, L. ; Nyirenda, M.J. ;
How does the association of general and central adiposity with glycaemia and blood pressure differ by gender and area of residence in a Malawian population: a cross-sectional study.
Int J Epidemiol, 2018;

In high-income settings, body mass index (BMI) and measures of central adiposity, such as waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) are associated with cardiometabolic risk, but evidence from low-income settings, particularly sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), is limited. We assessed whether there are differences between central and general adiposity in their associations with fasting glucose, diabetes, systolic and diastolic blood pressures and hypertension, and whether these associations differ with gender or rural/urban setting in Malawi.

We used data from a population-based study of 27 880 Malawian adults aged  ≥18 years, from both rural and urban areas. We used age-standardized z-scores of the means of BMI and WHR to directly compare their associations with glycaemic and blood pressure outcomes.

Mean fasting glucose and blood pressure values and odds of hypertension increased linearly across fifths of BMI and WHR, with stronger associations with BMI. For both BMI and WHR, the associations with outcomes were stronger in urban versus rural residents. The association with diabetes was stronger in women than men, whereas for blood-pressure related outcomes a stronger association was seen in men.

BMI is more strongly associated with cardiometabolic risk in SSA, and might be a more useful measure than WHR, in this population. The greater positive association of adiposity with cardiometabolic outcomes in urban residents (where rates of overweight/obesity are already high) highlights the particular importance of addressing obesity within urban SSA populations.