B.M.I. Too High? Not to Worry

Hooray!  Recent studies have indicated that many people with B.M.I. levels at the low end of normal are less healthy than those now considered overweight, blogs Jane E. Brody at The New York Times.

And some people who are overly fat according to their B.M.I. are just as healthy as those considered to be of normal weight, as discussed in a new book, “The Obesity Paradox,” by Dr. Carl J. Lavie, a cardiologist in New Orleans, and Kristin Loberg, she reports.

My B.M.I. has long been too high so I've never paid too much attention to it, losing 20 pounds recently and upping my exercise quotient significantly.  So what if the number's too big?

Now it looks like some pros are agreeing with me.  

Recent studies have "prompted many to question the real meaning of B.M.I. and to note its potential drawbacks: labeling some healthy people as overweight or obese who are not overly fat, and failing to distinguish between dangerous and innocuous distributions of body fat," according to Brody.

According to current criteria, those with a B.M.I. below 18.5 are underweight; those between 18.5 and 24.9 are normal; those between 25 to 29.9 are overweight; and those 30 and higher are obese. The obese are further divided into three grades: Grade 1, in which B.M.I. is 30 to 34.9; Grade 2, 35 to 39.9; Grade 3, 40 and higher, Brody notes.

At best B.M.I. is a crude measure that “actually misses more than half of people with excess body fat,” Brody quotes Geoffrey Kabat, an epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has noted. Someone with a “normal” B.M.I. can still be overly fat internally and prone to obesity-related ills.

Even the CDC cautions doctors against using it as a health measure.

For one thing, body weight is made up of muscle, bone and water, as well as body fat. B.M.I. alone is at best an imprecise measure of how fat a person may be. When Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr. Universe, his B.M.I. was well in the obese range, yet he was hardly fat!
The distribution of excess body fat is actually what makes a big difference to health. Those with lots of abdominal fat, which is metabolically active, are prone to developing insulin resistance, elevated blood lipidshigh blood pressurediabetes, premature cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of erectile dysfunctionand Alzheimer’s disease.
But fat carried in the hips, buttocks or thighs is relatively inert; while it may be cosmetically undesirable, it is not linked to chronic disease or early death.
So should you start eating up?  No.  The best bet is still sticking to a healthy diet and getting enough exercise that makes you sweat.  


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