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Muffin tops, lovehandles, spare tires, paunches, and beer bellies all are a burgeoning health problem, according to new medical findings.

A thick waistline, even on people not considered overweight, is a risk showing that it’s not just how much you weigh, but also where you store it, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“They may actually have a health risk that is even worse off than those who are obese,” said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, senior author of the study and the preventive cardiology chief at the Mayo Clinic. “It’s a fat that promotes the hardening of the arteries, promotes diabetes, promotes inflammation.”

The doctors analyzed and tracked 15,000 patients with various BMIs over 14 years.

Men with a normal weight but with big waistlines of 40 inches or more were twice as likely to die as their obese counterparts who had proportional waistlines, according to the study.

Women with a larger waist-to-hip ratio, especially wider than 35-inch waists, had a 32 percent higher mortality rate, they added.

The belly bulges were typically associated with higher blood sugar and triglyceride levels, they also found.

If the waist becomes thicker than the hips – meaning the waist-to-hip ratio is greater than one – it means health dangers, the doctors added.

However, the “apple” shape of patients with normal weights but ballooned waistlines was still a minority of patients, with 11 percent of the men and three percent of the women showing the criteria.

Previous studies have indicated that abdominal fat produces distinct toxins which are more harmful to overall health than other kinds of fat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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