Monday, June 25, 2012

How Flawed and Outdated is The BMI Measurement?

JUNE 22, 2012

By Tammy McKenzie;

The body mass index (BMI) is a poor measurement and a controversially inaccurate indicator to assess health. Despite this reality, almost every doctor is still trained in this useless analytical tool which is meant to provide a heuristic proxy for human body fat based on an individual's weight and height. The problem is, BMI doesn't actually measure percentage body fat or lean muscle tissue and makes absolutely no distinction between either of them. 

While the formula previously called the Quetelet Index (invented by Adolphe Quetelet) for BMI dates to the 19th century, the new term "body mass index" for the ratio and its popularity date to a paper published in the July edition of 1972 in the Journal of Chronic Diseasesby Ancel Keys, which ironically found the BMI to be the best proxy for body fat percentage among ratios of weight and height. It was designed as a simple numeric measure of a person's "thickness" or "thinness".

When it comes to assessing health status, most of the inaccuracy related to the BMI measurement comes from its reliance on population studies without assessing individual diagnosis. Keys himself admitted this shortfall. 
Consequently, it makes absolutely no distinction between body weight from muscle and body weight from fat which labels a broad segment of the athletic and similar healthy populations as overweight and obese. An ideal BMI (which the measurement considers to be healthy) is between 20.5 and 21.5. Between 30 and 35, a person is considered to be moderately obese. 

Yet from the graphic above, we can see that a heavily muscled person is also classified as obese. High BMIs (35 and over) are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular events but not to increased mortality overall. BMI is extremely limited in its ability to predict deaths caused by heart attacks or strokes. 

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, found that patients with a low BMI had a higher risk of death from heart disease than those with normal BMI. At the same time overweight patients had better survival rates and fewer heart problems than those with a normal BMI.

This apparently perverse result, drawn from data from 40 studies covering 250,000 people with heart disease, did not suggest that obesity was not a health threat but rather that the 100-year-old BMI test was too blunt an instrument to be trusted.  "Rather than proving that obesity is harmless, our data suggests that alternative methods might be needed to better characterize individuals who truly have excess body fat compared with those in whom BMI is raised because of preserved muscle mass," said lead researcher Francisco Lopez-Jiminez.

"This unfortunately has become a broad indicator of general health and it's a standard diagnostic tool of heart disease risk, but it gives us virtually no real data on causative or even specific correlating factors for disease," said cardiologist Dr. Jean Lahane.

Maria Grazia Franzosi from the Instituto Mario Negri in Milan, writing in the same issue of the Lancet, noted that a 52-country study comparing four different tests -- BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, waist measure and hip measure -- found that waist-to-hip was the best predictor of heart attack risk. "BMI can definitely be left aside as a clinical and epidemiological measure of cardiovascular risk," she said. "Uncertainty about the best index of obesity should not translate into uncertainty about the need for prevention policy against excess bodyweight," she cautioned.

A study published on April 2, 2012 in PLoS One, researchers in New York City used a modified test and a revised standard of fatness to determine whether or not their 1,400 participants were at a healthy weight.  The standard they applied is the fat-to-lean muscle mass ratio, and the test they used to make this determination is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), a scan that is widely used to measure bone density but can also reveal percentages of body fat and muscle mass.

Based on their findings, the investigators noted that if this more accurate method were substituted for the BMI, the almost four in 10 adults now identified as "overweight" would be reclassified as obese, with all the health risks that implies. They contended that the BMI number that now signals obesity - 30 - should be lowered to 24 for women and 28 for men. This would mean that a 5-foot 6-inch woman weighing 150 pounds would be considered obese, as would a 5'11" man weighing 200 pounds.

Dissatisfaction with the BMI is widespread, and various researchers are emphasizing that waist-to-hipratio and even waist-to-heightratios are far more accurate. The research team that conducted the latest study also tested their participants' levels of leptin, a hormone secreted by body fat, and reported that the results seem to mirror DEXA findings. They suggested that testing leptin levels may be an easy and inexpensive way to distinguish between normal weight, overweight and obesity.

Here are some health calculators to help you assess your health status:
BodyComposition (body caliper required)
Body FatPercentage (estimate)
Waist-to-HeightRatio (WHtR)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wonderful Cooling Technique using the Breath

Where does Bacteria Reside in our Bodies?

Invisible Residents

The Human Microbiome Project has spent two years surveying bacteria and other microbes at different sites on 242 healthy people. The chart below hints at the complex combinations of microbes living in and on the human body. Related Article »

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why Skip the Office Birthday Cake?

Everyone enjoys a celebration, and it's hard to turn away a well-deserved treat. But when the treat is not made with healthy ingredients, there's plenty to watch out for.......


sugarWhen you eat sugar, your body responds with an immediate, intense rise in blood glucose. In order to quickly regulate blood sugar, your body releases insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin plays many key roles in your body, and also serves as a fat storage hormone. When insulin is released, it moves the glucose into fat cells for storage. This is bad news if weight loss (or not gaining weight) is your goal, and it’s far from the only problem with sugar.
A 2012 UC Davis study showed that sugar (including high-fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar) increased risk factors for heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and poor blood lipid profiles. Because the liver can’t deal with excessive amounts of sugar, it instead leaks it out into the bloodstream. There it forms small, dense LDL, the type of cholesterol that sticks to artery walls. With fruit, there is fiber, so your body responds differently than from processed treats.
The same study links sugar to cancer. This is due to certain malignant tumors containing more insulin receptors than normal cells. These receptor cells signal the tumors to consume glucose to support the growth of the tumor. Cancer cells feed on sugar.


wheatUnless enjoying a gluten-free cake, most cakes contain white or wheat flour. Gluten is a sticky protein that naturally occurs in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Wheat flour, aside from appearing in a number of the processed foods humans eat, is also used to make glue. For many, when the sticky stuff enters our digestive systems, our bodies have difficulty trying to digest it. In fact, a significant portion of the population is either allergic to wheat (it is one of the most highly allergenic foods) or sensitive to gluten. This can cause problems, ranging from mild allergic reactions to a total inability to absorb nutrients in the intestines, as found in celiac disease. For most of the population, wheat is best avoided.


dairyMany cakes contain dairy products such as butter and milk. Like wheat, dairy is one of the most common food allergies exhibited in humans. Dairy products also leave a significant acidic residue in the body, which, according toThe China Study, can rob the bones of the minerals such as calcium and weaken the bones and body.
Likewise, dairy contains the protein casein, which is poorly integrated into the human body, and the sugar lactose, which causes digestive problems in a significant portion of the population. There are many other problems with dairy, as well, including the hormones used in dairy production. I recommend avoiding dairy, unless organic.

Soy, Corn and other Genetically Modified Ingredients

gmo foodsIf you’re eating a commercially prepared cake or one prepared from a cake mix, chances are it has some genetically modified ingredients. Common sources of GMOs include soy (soybean oil, soy flour, soy lecithin, etc.) and corn. Genetic modification of food crops is a relatively recent development in human history, beginning in the mid-1990s. Since that time, studies have shown multiple health dangers associated with GMOs (most countries outside of the US do not allow them), and further investigation is needed to truly discover the long-term effects on human health. Eating GMOs amounts to a huge health experiment on the human population.

Artificial Colors

food coloringWith all of the brightly colored frosting, birthday cake is often a work of art. What isn’t art, however, are the dyes that color the frosting into the body. While food coloring has long been an additive in the foods we eat, in 2011 the FDA released a report suggesting a possible link between food coloring and ADHD in kids. The chemicals in these dyes contribute to our toxic load and should be avoided.

Omega-6 Fats

omega 6 fats
While Omega-6 fats are not a bad thing, the trouble is the balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The standard Western diet is extremely high in Omega-6 fats and low in Omega-3s. When these two types of fatty acids skew out of balance inflammation increases. Inflammation has been linked to every chronic diseases, including autoimmune disorders and heart disease. Since birthday cake is high in the Omega-6 fatty acids, it contributes to out of balance fatty acid profiles. Next time an office birthday nears, offer our Chocolate Pudding instead of Party Cake. 

Blog Archive