When society is not busy equating weight to health, doctors are busy lamenting the fact that BMI is a more accurate indicator. Now two new studies are furthering the debate over fat versus skinny and just how we determine who is healthy. What they found was neither body type automatically means you’re healthy or unhealthy.
In the first study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers looked at medical conditions like blood pressure, diabetes and aches and pains as indicators of health and longevity versus weight. Dr. Arya Sharma, the lead researcher, developed a staging system where participants who were obese were ranked on a scale of zero to four depending, not on their weight, but on medical conditions to predict their lifespan, according to CNN:
- Zero: Someone at this stage has no apparent medical risk even though his weight is considered obese.
- Stage One: A person here has borderline hypertension and elevated blood pressure and may have elevated glucose levels and mild aches and pains.
- Stage Two: Someone in this stage has an obesity-related disease such as hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea. Her daily activities may also be restricted because of this.
- Stage Three: A person ranked here has organ damage such as heart failure, diabetic complications and debilitating arthritis. He may also have mental illnesses such as depression and suicidal thoughts.
- Stage Four: This is the most severe with someone who has an end-stage chronic disease, severe disabilities and major limitations to daily activities.
This research points to the fact that weight is not the ultimate determinant of our life span–instead, medical conditions (which thin people can have too) are, which makes sense because it’s the diseases related to obesity (not the weight itself) which affect our health and lifespan.
The second study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism journal had similar findings. While researchers found that a high BMI was associated with an increased risk of death, they found no difference in death risks between people who were considered a “normal” weight and those who were obese and in stages zero or one of the above rating system. That leads some experts to now believe that being overweight doesn’t automatically equate being unhealthy. Likewise, being thin doesn’t necessarily guarantee health.
Keep in mind that all of this points to longevity—not quality of life. In other words, it’s a useful system in predicting how likely someone is to die within 20 years, but it doesn’t cover the physical, emotional, mental and social lifestyle someone who is obese may endure. While being slightly overweight according to medical charts may not be a big deal, being severely overweight or obese often means a life filled with difficulty moving, knee and hip replacements, a lack of energy, higher states of depression or poor body image. And researchers warn us that just because someone doesn’t have chronic diseases at the moment, doesn’t guarantee they won’t down the road.
Take a look at Today‘s discussion about the issue and let us know your thoughts: