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BMI more Important than Low Weight

BMI more Important than Low Weight
March 16
20:34 2016
In the quest to lose weight, many become obsessed with the number on the scale. But it’s not all about numbers. Even if you reach your goal – how much of that weight is muscle and how much is fat? The scale doesn’t tell the whole story.

According to a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, keeping your body fat low is far more important than reaching a low weight. Another study found that young people who are not physically fit are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life even if their weight seems “healthy.”

BMI is important.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of your weight compared to your height. A BMI of 25 is considered “overweight,” while a BMI of 30+ is labeled “obese.”

For most, BMI is enough to prove if a person is overweight or obese (and thus at a higher chance of diabetes, heart disease, and early death). But for others, BMI is skewed by muscle. Some healthy people have a high BMI simply because they are very muscular. And others, who have a “normal” BMI, have too little muscle and too much body fat.

As we age, our muscle mass generally decreases and our amount of fat increases. This trend slows metabolism, which makes it even easier to pack on pounds even if you haven’t changed your diet or exercise patterns.


While a high BMI is the biggest risk factor when it comes to Type 2 diabetes, you are also at risk if you’re skinny and out of shape. Weight gain isn’t a problem for people with very high metabolisms; as a result, these individuals are less likely to feel the need to exercise. They can eat whatever they want and remain skinny. But that lifestyle takes a toll.

Researchers in New York and Sweden looked at the medical records of 1.5 million 18-year-olds and tracked how many of them developed diabetes later in life. The study found that low aerobic fitness and low muscle strength were associated with a higher risk of diabetes – regardless of whether or not the man was overweight.

“Normal-weight persons may not receive appropriate lifestyle counseling if they are sedentary or unfit because of their low perceived risk,” writes Peter Katzmarzyk, an obesity specialist at Louisiana’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The study also suggests that exercise and physical fitness during adolescence can have a significant and long-lasting impact on your health later in life.

How do you know?

Dympna Gallagher works at the Columbia University Medical Center as director of the human body composition lab. She says the average person will not benefit from getting a DXA scan for fat. Other methods to determine body composition include

• “Bioimpedance” scales that utilize a tiny electrical current
• Measuring skinfold thickness

Even if you have a “normal” BMI, you should keep an eye on your waistline. Women are at risk of developing health problems if their waists measure more than 35 inches. Men are encouraged to keep waist circumference below 40 inches. 



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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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