People with more body fat, no matter how much they weigh on the scale, face more dangers of dying prematurely than those with less body fat, a new study found.

A higher Body Mass Index (BMI), however, was found to not have any relationship with the likelihood of dying early.

The Real Value Of BMI

BMI, the measure of a person's weight in relation to height, has long been used to assess health and body composition. However, more and more studies have refuted the popular value of BMI.

For example, an individual may have a high BMI because of increased muscle mass and not necessarily because of high levels of body fat. As a result, that person may be categorized as "overweight" or "obese" according to the standards of BMI.

Therefore, the link between body fat and health is a more reliable indicator than body weight seen in measuring scales.

"It's important to be attuned to what you're made of, rather than just how much you weigh," says study author Dr. William Leslie from the University of Manitoba in Canada.

With this, Leslie and colleagues embarked on a study that aims to study the separate and combined link between BMI and body fat percentage with mortality.

Establishing Results That Counter The Value Of BMI

The study involved 49,476 women and 4,944 men aged 40 years old and above.

The participants underwent bone mineral density (BMD) testing and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). They were also followed up using interconnected administrative records.

The researchers found that in both genders, those who have low BMI and high body fat percentage were associated with increased death rates.

"These findings may help explain the counterintuitive relationship between BMI and mortality," the authors write.

More Than Body Fat

Rebecca Shenkman from the Villanova University College of Nursing in the United States commented that the issue here is not body fat alone; the level of fitness also matters. In fact, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly, despite being categorized as overweight, live longer than those who have a sedentary lifestyle. This means that a combination of a healthy diet and regular physical activity is much more vital than simply being skinny.

Shenkman was not involved in the study.

In the end, Leslie pointed out to what the society dictates and how this should not be made as the basis of health at all. Society has this notion that being thin is popular and being overweight is bad. However, health is definitely much more than what weighing scales present, he says.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on Tuesday, March 8.

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