Associations of anthropometric characteristics with blood cholesterol fractions among adults. The Greek EPIC study

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To explore the independent associations of body height, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and hip circumference with high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) and non-high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (non-HDL-cholesterol), in a large general population sample.


Cross sectional.


Urban and rural areas throughout Greece.


In total, 10 837 volunteers, 2034 men and 8803 women, aged 25-82 years, participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC), who have never smoked and never been treated for dyslipidemia.




The effect of height on non-HDL-cholesterol was opposite but in absolute terms almost as important as that of BMI with no gender interaction. Among women, hip circumference was inversely associated with non-HDL-cholesterol (standardized coefficient bst=−1.11, with standard error (s.e.)=0.42) and positively with HDL-cholesterol (bst=0.85, s.e.=0.12) whereas, waist circumference was inversely associated with HDL-cholesterol (bst=−1.16, s.e.=0.13) and strongly positively with non-HDL-cholesterol (bst=8.83, s.e.=0.45). Among men, associations were generally weaker (in absolute terms by about 50%) and for hip circumference the association with non-HDL-cholesterol was actually non significantly positive.


Height was inversely associated with HDL and non-HDL-cholesterol implicating early life phenomena in the regulation of these variables. Larger hip circumference among women had beneficial effects on blood cholesterol fractions by increasing HDL-cholesterol and reducing non-HDL-cholesterol, whereas among men the relevant effects were less clear cut. The detrimental consequences of large waist circumference on both HDL (reduction) and non-HDL-cholesterol (increase) were also particularly marked among women.


The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) is coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (World Health Organization) and supported by the Europe Against Cancer Program of the European Commission. The Greek segment of the EPIC study is also supported by the Greek Ministry of Health and the Greek Ministry of Education. This study was additionally supported by the fellowship 'Vassilios and Nafsika Tricha'.

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