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BMI Not Enough to Gauge Obesity Epidemic

A new study suggests that body-mass index, commonly known as BMI, paints an inaccurate picture of the U.S. obesity epidemic. Researchers say that the formula, used to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy weight, may be misclassifying roughly half of women and just over 20% of men as healthy when their body-fat composition suggests they are obese. What is alarming about these findings, they say, is that we may be farther behind on tackling the nation’s obesity problem than we thought.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Eric Braverman, one of the study’s authors, went as far as to rename BMI the “the baloney-mass index,” and said that its use hinders efforts to combat obesity, and to a certain extent, chronic disease.

The study found that for women over 50 especially, many whose BMIs suggest they are the picture of health are, in fact, dangerously fat. The measure in the study uses a costly diagnostic test called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The study also suggests that BMI is a poor measure of fatness in men, but not always in a way that underestimates their obesity. Far more frequently than for women, men who were obese by the BMI standard were recategorized as normal and healthy when the DEXA standard was used.

“We may be much further behind than we thought” in addressing the nation’s crisis of obesity, Braverman told The Times. If medical interventions sought to shift patients’ body composition more toward lean muscle mass, he said—encouraging more exercise and more sleep as well as more healthful eating—they would be more successful.

Read the full article here.

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