Body Mass Index Invalid

April 27, 2005 at 2:53 pm 3 comments

Finally! The studies have been done, and it has been proven that the new American standards for obesity are unscientific and — in fact — wrong! The title says it all: “CDC Links Extra Pounds, Lower Death Risk.” (The link to the original article is: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/print?id=686831) I have been upset about this for the last three years, precisely because there was no scientific basis for the change. However, these findings have stirred up a lot of “politically correct” controversy. First, a bit of history: About 3 years ago, overnight, the government declared 1/3rd of the American public obese. This happened because a new standard was adopted by the National Institutes of Health (the NIH) – the BMI, or Body Mass Index. I have tried to find the source data that triggered this change, but haven’t been able to locate any data. I believe the change was instituted because it created a new, government sanctioned, category of treatable disease — obesity related illness. The immediate effect was to make weight loss treatments (such as, gastric bypass surgery, for example) reimbursable procedures under many health insurance plans. Prior to the adoption of the BMI, target weights were based on actuarial tables from the life insurance companies, which correlated life expectancy with body weight and height. That standard also made allowances for bone structure. Large boned individuals’ ideal weight was higher than the average; petite-boned people were to weigh correspondingly less. No comparable studies on weight and its effect on life expectancy were ever done for the BMI standard. Well, now, such a study has been done. And guess what? The BMI standard does not correlate well with life expectancy. This means that the BMI is completely arbitrary, has no scientific basis and using it as a standard for your personal body weight will not improve your health or long-term life expectancy. In fact, doing so might actually be harmful, since the study found that people who were slightly heavier than their recommended BMI actually lived longer! The study was printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and reported by the Associated Press on April 20, 2005. The effect on the statistics for obesity is startling. In January of this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was estimating that 365,000 deaths per year were caused by obesity, making it the 2nd highest cause of preventable death in the U.S. That number was down from 400,000 last fall. The number was reduced after scientists inside and outside the agency questioned the figure, and the CDC admitted making a calculation error! However, the media and the government continued to hype the fact that 2 out of 3 American adults are overweight or obese and are at higher risk for heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. The government, in particular, has spent millions of dollars promoting this message, because it represented a huge policy change. The new data indicate that obesity accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the U.S. This is a 14-fold decrease, making obesity the seventh, instead of the second preventable cause of death in the U.S. The causes of preventable death in the U.S. are now as follows: tobacco, alcohol, germs, toxins and pollutants, car crashes, guns, obesity, risky sexual behavior and illicit drugs. However, and this is the kicker, the CDC is not willing to make this information official, because of the controversy in the agency. And this, despite the fact that the study (and several recent smaller studies, as well) clearly demonstrates that people who are modestly “overweight” (according to the BMI) have a lower risk of death than those of “normal weight.” In my view, political correctness is the reason for the reluctance of the CDC to publicize their much vaunted “scientific” results. Let’s face it: Our culture is obsessed with thinness — to an unhealthy degree. Any data which contradicts the thought that “thin” equals “healthy” is simply too uncomfortable for many people to confront. No wonder we have so many eating disorders! In alternative medicine, we are constantly told that our therapies are useless, because we don’t have the scientific studies we need to validate our results. Now, the medical profession has such a study and is simply suppressing it because it doesn’t fit the preconceived culturally induced bias. This double standard makes me crazy! To me, it appears that your health is not important to the powers that be; being “politically correct” is the most important consideration. As we age, it is normal that we pick up some weight — it actually extends our life. So, don’t fret. Enjoy balanced meals, and try not to become absorbed by the notion that you must be rail thin in order to enjoy a happy and healthy life.

Entry filed under: Weight Loss.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Does Obesity Kill? « Dr Richards Talks Back  |  July 14, 2012 at 3:34 am

    […] BMI may, in fact, be too low.  I commented on that study when it first came out in an earlier blog […]

    Reply
  • 2. Marcus  |  October 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog
    that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is something that too few folks
    are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I stumbled across this during my search for
    something relating to this.

    Reply
  • […] have lower mortality overall. Yet, these findings are routinely ignored. As long ago as 2005, I was pointing out the problems with BMI, including the fact that the CDC is suppressing information about the BMI […]

    Reply

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