Over the last 40 years the number of individuals classified as obese has continued to rise unabated. Strangely enough, life expectancy at birth has not fallen, but has actually increased.The “obesity epidemic” scaremongering of the last few years seems somewhat hollow. New research published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals even more startling facts.
Data from more than 33,000 American adults show that male life expectancy is greatest for BMIs of about 26 – overweight under the old rule, and equivalent to 24lb extra for the typical man. For women, the new research found an optimum BMI of about 23.5, about half a stone heavier than the standard.
The researcher Dr Jerome Gronniger concludes
“I found that the current definitions of obesity and overweight are imprecise predictors of mortality risk.”
Our infamous and well-publicized obesity statistics are based on BMI, and the UK Telegraph reports:
It’s now widely accepted that the BMI is useless for assessing the healthy weight of individuals” said Dr David Haslam, the clinical director of Britain’s National Obesity Forum.
Not faulty, not inferior… but useless. It’s no wonder the CDC had egg on its face after faulty pronouncements of deaths from obesity. In fact, Dr Gronniger believes that only those with a BMI of over 35 face a markedly reduced life expectancy.
So what is going on?
- Poor fitness and health are no fun – and both of these situations are often found in those with lots of body fat. However neither BMI nor the scales are a reliable indicator of such conditions.
- To infer health risk – it’s better to use a simple measurement of waist circumference (apparently waists greater than 40in for men and 35in for women are a health risk – regardless of height).
- Pursuit of the perfect weight or BMI is a vague goal – the goalposts will always be changing. Aim for goals such as fitness, strength, endurance, good health. These are lofty goals – but be prepared to be at odds with the rest of our image-obsessed world.