The numbers are staggering: more than one-third of Americans are considered overweight or obese, with obesity levels among children still on the rise. But according to new research, measuring body mass index (BMI), the tool most commonly used to diagnose weight problems, may not be the best measure of one’s overall health. In fact, it may be downright misleading, finds the study.
According to the UCLA research team, more than 50 million Americans classified as either overweight or obese as a result of BMI measurements, may be healthier than previously believed.
The body mass index is a calculation that’s taken by dividing a person’s weight (in kilos) by the square of the person’s height (in meters). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a healthy BMI is 18.5-24.9, an overweight BMI is 25-29.9 and an obese BMI is 30 or higher.
But what the researchers found was that even despite these rankings, they didn’t always measure up when it came to the health of the individual with a higher BMI.
The researchers made the discovery by looking at the connection (or lack thereof) between BMI and blood pressure, triglyceride, cholesterol, glucose, insulin resistance, and C-reactive protein data.
According to the study “nearly half of overweight individuals and 29 percent of obese people were metabolically healthy while 30 percent of ‘normal’ weight individuals are actually unhealthy,” reports CBS News.
“This should be a final nail in the coffin for BMI,” lead author A. Janet Tomiyama, a psychologist at UCLA told the Los Angeles Times.
“The public is used to hearing ‘obesity,’ and they mistakenly see it as a death sentence,” Tomiyama said. “But obesity is just a number based on BMI, and we think BMI is just a really crude and terrible indicator of someone’s health.”
And the findings may be more important than one’s state of personal health. According to CBS, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is considering a proposed rule that would give employers the power to cut their contributions to health care programs for employees by as much as 30 percent if the employees failed to pass several health-based criteria, including a ‘healthy’ BMI.
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