Body Mass Index (BMI) is not the only basis when determining a person's health. In fact, a new study found that BMI incorrectly tags million of Americans as obese and unhealthy.
BMI is obtained by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters. People are considered to be healthy when their BMI falls within the normal range of 18.5 to 24.9. A person with a BMI of 18.5 and lower is considered underweight, while BMIs of 25 to 29.9 and 30 or higher mean a person is overweight and obese, respectively.
For the longest time, BMI has been the go-to information of employers and other groups in identifying whether a person is healthy or not.
"Many people see obesity as a death sentence," says lead author A. Janet Tomiyama from UCLA. "But the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy."
To come up with the findings, the team analyzed the BMI of 40,420 individuals aged 18 years old and above. They also looked into other health indicators such as glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure readings.
The scientists found that 47.7 percent or 34.4 million Americans who scored "overweight" in BMI readings are actually healthy. The same results were also noted in 19.8 million "obese" individuals.
Tables seem to have turned as about 30 percent or 20.7 million individuals whose BMI lands on the normal range were actually unhealthy based on other health parameters.
The findings imply that BMI figures may be unreliable markers for health.
All in all, the researchers say that people should not only aim for a normal BMI so they can be considered healthy.
The study comes at a time when the United States (US) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proposed that employers may penalize staff up to 30 percent of health insurance expenses if they do not fall under a "healthy category" as determined by BMI values.
The study results may signify that overweight and obese individuals by virtue of BMI are unlikely to spend higher health costs thus, it may be unfair to charge them with more expensive premiums.
The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity on Thursday, Feb. 4.
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