Scale weight and BMI aren’t best indications of health

December 22, 2018
Warren Willey

For years, I have had issues with scale weight and body mass index (BMI) as surrogate markers of health. Scale weight is obviously reflective of your total mass and gravity.

BMI is basically a height-to-weight reading, with normal values being between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2.

People with a BMI less than 18.5 are considered underweight, BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, and you are called obese if your BMI is greater than 30.

The problem with this measurement is that it does not account for lean vs. actual fat mass. Lean mass is defined as anything not fat. Bones, brain, muscle, your hair, all constitute lean mass. Therefore, it is possible to be muscular, yet be branded as obese.

This will not only be an unfair classification, but it will also cost you money, as insurance premiums take BMI into account when deciding how much to charge you. It is also becoming more apparent, at least to the medical “experts” out there, that fat mass is more of an indication of disease than BMI.

A study published in the journal JAMA Oncology a few weeks ago correlated elevated risk for breast cancer, in post-menopausal women, based on fat percentages over BMI. In other words, BMI did not relate to greater risk for breast cancer in women, the amount of fat did.

Higher fat mass also demonstrated more inflammatory markers and hormone discrepancies over leaner women, no matter what the BMI. As part of your health initiative for 2019, please consider getting your body composition measured, rather than focusing on scale weight.

Stop weighing yourself on some given schedule hoping to see a change. Focus on increasing your lean mass and decreasing your fat mass. This can occur rather quickly with proper movement, controlled, or at least conscious eating, and adequate nutrition, no matter what the scale says or what your BMI may be.

Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician. Visit his website at http://drwilley.com.

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