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Tuesday, 09 February 2016 13:31

Redefining Obesity: Can You Be Obese and Healthy?

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Can you be obese and healthy at the same time? A new study from UCLA calls into question the significance of BMI (body mass index) testing in determining health. What does the new research mean?

An article this week on KTLA Los Angeles points to a new study from UCLA researchers who claim that "BMI incorrectly categorizes millions of 'obese' people as unhealthy." At the heart of the debate is a new proposal by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to charge higher health insurance premiums to employees who fall in the BMI overweight or obese classification.

Body mass index (BMI) is a ratio of height to weight that has long been used as a quick way to determine whether a person is overweight or obese. (You can use the National Institute of Health's online BMI calculator to check your own BMI.)

Mathematically, BMI is "a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters." According to the CDC, BMI "can be used as a screening tool for body fatness but is not diagnostic." A body mass index of 25-29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. For example, a person with a height of 5' 0" who weighs 155 lbs has a BMI of 30.3 (obese).

According to the UCLA Newsroom, "Over the past few years, body mass index, a ratio of a person’s height and weight, has effectively become a proxy for whether a person is considered healthy. Many U.S. companies use their employees’ BMIs as a factor in determining workers’ health care costs. And people with higher BMIs could soon have to pay higher health insurance premiums, if a rule proposed in April by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is adopted."

BMI is often, but not always, an accurate indicator of obesity. An athlete may have a high BMI because of muscle mass, but still not be overweight. So the CDC is correct that BMI is a screening tool.

According to the new study's lead author, A. Janet Tomiyama, a UCLA assistant professor of psychology, "Many people see obesity as a death sentence. But the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy" based on other health markers (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.). Tomiyama also found in previous research there was "no clear connection between weight loss and health improvements related to hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol and blood glucose levels," and has claimed that "restrictive diets do not work."

At California Medical Weight Management, we have witnessed the real results of patients in our program. Through our medically supervised weight management program, many of our patients have been able to reduce or completely discontinue medication for high blood pressure and diabetes. Here is a YouTube video from our Office Manager Sylvia Sambucini (San Antonio, TX) describing how she was able to get off medications after losing 55 lbs.

While psychological factors play a big part, we can't ignore medical science. Obesity has been linked to hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Obesity is so dangerous that the American Medical Association classisfied it as a disease last year. So it is completely wrong-headed to claim that one can be obese and still "perfectly healthy." That is like saying that people who smoke can be perfectly healthy, while ignoring the huge increased risk smoking creates for heart attack, emphysema and lung cancer.

For those who are chronically obese, advice to "use a smaller fork" is helpful, but will probably not solve their problems. We urge you not to neglect your health, or the likely consequences of obesity down the road. At CalMWM we've seen countless examples of patients who transformed their lives with our medically-supervised weight management system. Call California Medical Weight Management today to learn more. Always consult a doctor before making any changes to your diet.

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*Disclaimer: Results are typical but not guaranteed. Your actual results may vary. Real CalMWM patients shown with permission.

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