UCLA researchers have found that a high BMI is not necessarily a sign of poor health as common belief has it. BMI, or the body mass index, is a ratio of an individual’s weight and height.
Many employers and even lawmakers currently believe that BMI could tell them how healthy their employees or citizens are. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has even advanced a proposal to force people with a high BMI to fork out more cash for their health insurance premiums.
But UCLA scientists have found that if we consider BMI an indicator of how healthy a person really is about 54 million Americans would be deemed ‘unhealthy’ although that may not be the case at all.
A study detailing the new findings was published Thursday in International Journal of Obesity.
“Many people see obesity as a death sentence,”
noted A. Janet Tomiyama, lead author of the study and UCLA psychology expert.
Tomiyama added that many people are obese, but they are also perfectly healthy.
During their study, researchers analyzed participants’ BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The information was gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Scientists found that about 47.4 percent of U.S. residents (about 34 million) that fall under the ‘overweight’ category if we take into account their BMI have no health issues. About 20 million more which are obese are also perfectly healthy.
Study authors concluded that since these people’s BMI does not affect their health, overcharging them on a false assumption would be unfair. Plus, about 20.7 million Americans that have a normal weight are unhealthy, the data revealed. By contrast, 2 million ‘very obese’ Americans do not struggle with any health issue. About 15 percent of population is considered ‘very obese’ as the BMI is over 35.
Tomiyama explained that a faulty health policy would charge perfectly healthy people some extra money, while the unhealthy that have a low BMI would simply ‘fly under the radar.’
Jeffrey Hunger, another study investigator, believes that measuring health through BMI is deeply flawed. He also believes that people should stop being obsessed about their weight and focus more on a healthy diet and exercising to stay healthy and fit.
People with a normal BMI should also refrain from pointing the finger at overweight people, blaming them for imaginary high health care costs. Under the new rules, the EEOC wants to force employers to impose higher insurance rates on workers who have a BMI of 25 or higher.
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