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BMI and Health
Time for a rethink?

If the results of recent research are right, we need to revise our Body Mass Index criteria.

People we currently think of as overweight may live longer than "normal" people do. High risk may only come from extreme obesity - BMI's above 35.

Research teams from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute analyzed body mass index and death rates. They published their work early 2005 in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.

The teams found:

  • The lowest death rates were found in people whose BMI was between 25 and 29 - currently 'overweight'.
  • The ideal bodyweight, with the lowest risk of early death, is a BMI of 25. This is right on the current borderline between normal and overweight.


The researchers believe the study is the most rigorous ever carried out - its figures take account of age, sex, race, smoking and drinking. They also took account of improvements in healthcare including cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The authors suggest older people may need more body fat than previously thought desirable. The fat may pull them through when they become ill and cannot eat normally.

The study seems to suggest it is fitness not fatness that is important in determining how long you will live.

Some physicians are uncomfortable with the study and caution that it may lead to complacency in the face of the rising tide of extreme obesity.



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