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Note on Lifestyle

Weighing in on weight

I think that part of the confusion behind discussions of weight and health is semantic. If someone is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs over 250 pounds they are overweight and unhealthy, right? Wrong; the BMI would be 36.9, and they would be classified as having morbid obesity, or class 2 obesity. Overweight is defined as a BMI between 25 and 30, which would be 169-203 pounds for our 5 foot 9 inch example. Normal BMI is defined as the range from 18.5-25, or in this case a weight of 125-168 pounds. What this study shows, from a very large prospective database, is that overweight individuals have a slightly lower mortality than normal weight individuals. All levels of obesity have a higher mortality than either ‘normal’ or ‘overweight’ individuals. This same finding has been reported from a large meta-analysis done by the CDC, and reported by Flegal in 2013. This certainly doesn’t mean that people should try to gain weight, but is a reminder that we need to be more precise when talking about people’s weight.

Abstract of this study is here, and a link to the full-text of the Flegal/CDC article is here.

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