Entries in BMI (11)


New Obesity Measure ABSI Better Than BMI?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Body mass index (BMI) is a widely used indicator of obesity, but a new study suggests it may not be the best predictor of whether your weight raises your risk of death.

Researchers at The City College of New York developed a new obesity measurement tool called A Body Shape Index (ABSI) that combines BMI and waist circumference.

Waist circumference is a measure used to determine the amount of belly fat a person has.  Abdominal fat has been linked to a number of health conditions, including high cholesterol, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.

The researchers measured ABSI in more than 14,100 American adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2004.  They found that a high ABSI, indicative of a large amount of belly fat, significantly increased the risk of premature death.  A high BMI also predicted the risk of an early death, but to a lesser degree than ABSI.

“If BMI measures body size or ‘bigness’, ABSI can be thought of as measuring a component of body shape, or ’roundness,’” Nir Krakauer, an assistant professor of civil engineering and a study co-author, told ABC News via email.

Krakauer said his research suggests that ABSI is a reliable metric, but other studies need to confirm the findings before it can be used clinically.

“I expect that formulating recommendations based on ABSI instead of waist circumference as a health indicator will make them more useful, because ABSI adjusts the waist circumference for height and weight to quantify body shape,” he said.  “High ABSI may identify people who have unhealthy body shapes despite having weight and waist circumference within the normal range, and such
people may benefit from diet and lifestyle changes.”

Nutrition experts not involved in the ABSI research said this new tool has a lot of potential because of its inclusion of waist circumference.

“We always knew that BMI didn’t indicate body indicate body composition.  That was always its weakness,” said Keith Ayoob, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.  “Waist circumference, without BMI, ties in pretty well with mortality and predicts hazards.”

But regardless of how reliable ABSI may prove to be, BMI is still very useful as an overall measure of body fat.

“We’re not moving away from BMI,” Ayoob said.  “It’s a general tool that’s very easy to figure out.  It’s too simple to give up.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Snacking on Chocolate Linked to Low BMI

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- A new study suggests snacking on chocolate could help fight weight gain.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, asked more than 1,000 healthy men and women about their chocolate consumption as well as the rest of their diet and physical activity. Those who ate chocolate more often during the week had a lower body mass index, or BMI, a measure of body fat content. In fact, eating “chocolate five times a week was associated with a decrease in BMI of 1 kg/m2,” the researchers reported.

“The study is provocative and confirms what we have been calling the chocolate/obesity paradox: Despite chocolate’s high caloric load, its regular intake does not result in weight gain,” said Dr. Franz Messerli, the director of the hypertension program at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study. “Thus, to put it pointedly, chocolate could be called a lazy man’s exercise.”

People who ate more chocolate consumed more calories and saturated fat, and did not exercise any more than those who ate chocolate less, according to the study. Yet they still had a lower BMI.

Previous studies suggest dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, bad cholesterol and even the risk of diabetes. This study, however, did not distinguish between dark and milk chocolate.

“This is a rather vague study, not specifying the kind of chocolate, so it only adds to what we know in general terms,”  said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “We have strong evidence of net cardiovascular benefit from routine intake of moderate amounts of dark chocolate.”

The best quantity of chocolate is also unclear, as the study only examined the frequency of consumption.

Katz said he worries the benefits of snacking on chocolate might be offset by the risks of weight gain over time.

“This study suggests that is not the case,” he said.

Some experts say the evidence for chocolate’s health benefits is strong enough to recommend the odd indulgence.

“I’ve often told patients who love chocolate that it’s OK to include [chocolate in their diet],” said Keith Ayoob, director of the Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York. “Best is dark chocolate, and best is to keep it to about an ounce per day. That amounts to only about 150 calories -- a lot less than any pastry they’d eat.”

How could a treat filled with sugar and fat fight weight gain? It might be due to the high concentration of epicatechin, a flavonoid found in cocoa, tea, blueberries and grapes.

“Epicatechin from cocoa causes greater control over food urges and is more satisfying than other treats,” said Dr. Peter McCullough, a cardiologist at St. John Providence Health in Warren, Mich. “Higher cocoa chocolate is relatively low in sugar and the fatty acid in chocolate products is probably not as worrisome as other fats. On the whole, a little superior quality chocolate is good to add to the diet of those trying to lose weight.”

Experts agree more research is needed to clarify how chocolate fits in with weight control. But in the meantime, a little chocolate certainly won’t hurt.

“Dark chocolate is a health indulgence. If you choose wisely, and ‘dose’ moderately, it can fit into a healthful diet and not cause weight gain,” Katz said. “What is clear is that dark chocolate stands out as an example of a food we love that has considerable potential to love us back.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Obesity Rates Level Off, Remain High

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The good news is that obesity rates overall among children and adults appear to be leveling off. But the bad news is that these rates have consistently remained high since 2003, a black eye for those who have worked for years to curb the obesity crisis.

“Many efforts both at the national level and at state and local levels focus on reducing childhood obesity,” researchers wrote in a study released Tuesday in JAMA. But these efforts may not have contributed to significant reductions in obesity in any age group, especially for males.

Nearly 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese – meaning they have a body mass index (BMI) above 30, according to the 2010 results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). These numbers were similar to the data taken from 1999 to 2008.

The number doubles when the prevalence of people who are simply overweight instead of obese are also taken into account. Overweight indicates a body mass index between 25 and 25.9. Nearly 70 percent of men and women are either considered overweight or obese, according to the latest survey data. Nearly 32 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are considered overweight or obese.

Slight increases were found in males of both age groups. Nearly 36 percent of men are considered obese, which is a slight increase from previous years.

“The rapid increases we saw in the 1980s and 1990s have not occurred in the last decade. It’s leveling off,” said Cynthia Ogden, epidemiologist and lead author of the study, which looked at children and adolescent obesity rates.

But the studies did not address why obesity rates have leveled off compared to previous decades.

Ogden and her colleagues also found a slight increase in body mass index (BMI) among adolescent males ages 12 through 19 years, but not among any other age group or among females.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Possible Link Between Low BMI, Alzheimer's Disease

Creatas/Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY, Kan.) -- Maintaining a low Body Mass Index (BMI) has long been considered a healthy practice for the general population, but a new study suggests there could be a link between one's BMI and cognitive impairment.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found that older people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease are more likely to have lower BMI.

"The earliest stages of Alzheimer's are associated with some metabolic dysfunction, as evidence with the differences in BMI," said Dr. Jeffrey Burns, lead author of the study and director of the Alzheimer and Memory Program at University of Kansas Medical Center.  "We saw the relationship between Alzheimer's markers with body composition with low BMI in people in the earliest stages of the disease, both in people with mild cognitive impairment and in people without functional problems."

While Burns said he does not have the evidence to support whether low BMI puts people at risk of cognitive impairment or cognitive impairment may contribute to lower BMI, he said it goes beyond simple changes in one's ability to remember to eat.

"It reflects there is a systemic response to an underlying problem," said Burns.  "We think of Alzheimer's as classically a brain disease, but now there's evidence that there are measurable changes going on in the body."

BMI is a number calculated from a person's height and weight that is meant to indicate body fatness in most people.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.5 and below is considered underweight; normal weight ranges from 18.5 to 24.9; overweight spans from 25 to 29.9; and obese is considered 30 and above.

Researchers analyzed more than 500 patients with Alzheimer's biomarkers through advanced brain imaging techniques and cerebrospinal fluid.  The biomarkers are often present years before symptoms set in.  Study participants included people without any memory problems and those with mild cognitive impairment.

While the link between later-life low body mass and Alzheimer's disease has been fairly established by previous research publications, William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association, said this study appears to extend this relationship to the earliest stages of Alzheimer's pathology through the biomarker findings.

Interestingly, prior research has shown that middle-aged people who are overweight or obese (higher BMIs) are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News radio


Thin People At Greater Risk of Dying After Surgery, Study Finds

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Being thin isn't an advantage when it comes to surviving surgery, a new study finds.

University of Virginia researchers say that heavier people have a lower chance of dying within 30 days after an operation as opposed to their thinner counterparts.  George Stukenborg and his team aren't really sure why that is after setting out to learn how obesity affects the risk of surviving surgery.

Typically, people with higher body mass index rates are prone to contract more life-threatening diseases, but these new findings of post-surgery complications among thin patients have left scientists puzzled.

Dr. Nestor de la Cruz-Munoz, chief of bariatric surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, believes the answer is that, "a lot of these patients are malnourished -- maybe cancer patients, patients undergoing treatment for other medical problems.  A lot of time these patients don't have the defenses to do well with a major surgery."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michigan to Track Kids' BMI

JupiterImages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- In an attempt to combat Michigan's childhood obesity epidemic, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday that the state would begin tracking kids' body mass index through the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. Although the policy would be one of the most extensive government anti-childhood obesity efforts, pediatricians were divided over whether it would have the desired impact.

The tracking system would require pediatricians to calculate patients' BMI using height and weight measurements, and report these numbers to the state through the existing immunization tracking system, the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. The numbers would be reported anonymously, meaning that the child's identity would not be connected to his or her BMI in state records.

The hope is that having doctors track height and weight in this way would encourage more discussion among parents, kids and doctors about the dangers of being overweight, says Geralyn Lasher, director of communications at the Executive Office of the Governor.

The new policy does not require doctors to discuss obesity with kids and parents, nor does it provide physicians with the extra time or training needed to discuss weight problems -- a narrowness of focus that some doctors believes will limit the policy's effectiveness.

Others questioned the policy's use of BMI, an obesity metric some pediatricians call oversimplified and misleading, especially in children.

Some worry that discussing obesity in terms of BMI with parents and kids will be misleading, as tracking BMI does not reflect positive changes overweight kids can make in their activity level.

But Keith Ayoob, director of the Rose R. Kennedy Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, defended the use of BMI, saying that while it's not a perfect measure, it's the "best we've got" for measuring obesity on a population.

While Michigan's BMI tracking system will most likely become only an entry point for further discussion and intervention in cases of obesity, any pediatricians still believe it's worth the effort.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Heart Disease Patients with Belly Fat at Greater Risk of Death

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Abdominal obesity is associated with an increased risk of multiple health problems, including death. 

A new study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., systematically reviewed published data from five studies from around the world and confirmed that, indeed, heart disease patients with abdominal obesity we at a greater risk of death than patients of normal weight.

"Visceral [belly] fat has been found to be more metabolically active," said Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, the study's lead researcher and director of the Mayo Cardiometabolic Program. "It produces more changes in cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.  However, people who have fat mostly in other location in the body, specifically the legs and buttocks, don't show this increased risk."

But the same was not true for overall obesity.  Patients with a high BMI were, strangely, at a lower risk of death.

Study authors advised that doctors look at more than just BMI when assessing the health risks of patients.  The authors also said doctors should recommend that patients with large waistlines lose wait, regardless of normal BMIs.  BMIs between 18.5 and 25 are considered normal, while BMIs between 25 and 29.9 is overweight.  A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

The study is published in latest issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Will New Fat Test Replace Body Mass Index?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A new way to tell how fat a person is without having to step on a scale may replace Body Mass Index, a measure that hasn't been updated for nearly 200 years.

BMI uses height and weight to estimate body fat. The new index, known as Body Adiposity Index (BAI), uses hip-width and height measurements. Scientists hope it will be a simpler and more accurate assessment.

BMI long has been considered useful but flawed. A high BMI is one of several risk factors used to evaluate obesity-related diseases, but for many people, including athletes, BMI is unreliable.

BAI offers a potential advantage over BMI because it gives a clearer snapshot of how much unhealthy flab a person carries on their body and eliminates much of the guesswork of whether or not a person is truly carrying too much excess weight. It seems to be able to differentiate how much of a person's weight is fat and how much is muscle and fat-free mass -- although like BMI, it still doesn't reveal anything about where an individual's fat is deposited.

Richard Bergman and a team of researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles derived their BAI calculations from a database of about 1,700 Mexican-Americans. When they analyzed an extensive series of physical characteristics they found that hip circumference and height correlated strongly with body fat percentage as measured by a highly reliable but expensive scanning method known as DEXA, or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. They reported their findings in the March issue of the journal Obesity.

Bergman said that as with any other new scientific measure, BAI still needs fine tuning such additional testing on other ethnicities and with children. But so far, results have been promising. Recent studies with groups of African Americans also have produced good results.

Determining your body fat percentage with BAI involves measuring your height in meters and the widest part of your hips (while your feet are placed together) in centimeters, then plugging those numbers into a complex formula.

Body fat percentage is just one number medical experts use to evaluate a person's overall health and level of "fatness." There are no universally accepted guidelines for the ideal percentage of body fat.

The American Council on Exercise recommends that women strive for between 16 percent and 26 percent body fat and men between 12 percent and 22 percent. Athletic men and women often have lower body fat percentages than that. Those above 38 percent body fat generally are considered to be obese.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: BMI In Adolescence Tied to Later Heart Disease  

Comstock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Obesity in adulthood is known to be associated with diabetes and heart disease.  But does a longer history of being somewhat overweight pose an added risk of coronary disease?  That's what a new study sought to find out.

Teenagers with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above -- which is considered obese -- are at a greater risk for diabetes and heart disease later in life. 

But a study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that an elevated BMI in what would be a normal range during adolescence also increases the risk for coronary heart disease.

Researchers in Israel followed more than 37,000 healthy men in the Israeli army for an average of 17 and a half years.  The participants were 17 years old when the study began.

They found that an elevated BMI in the adolescent men who were not overweight posed a substantial risk for coronary heart disease in midlife.  The adolescents were four times more likely to develop heart problems compared to the teens with the lowest BMI.

The study concluded that the BMI at 17 is a predictor of heart disease later in life. 

Because the participants were limited to men in the Israeli army, the results may not fully apply to others elsewhere.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Links Maternal Employment to Child's Body Weight

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The length of maternal employment could have an adverse affect on childhood obesity, according to a new study.

Investigators at the University of Chicago found that for each year a mother continues to work, her child's body mass index (BMI) creeps up a small but statistically significant percentage.

"It amounts to about 1.5 to 2 pounds per year above average, depending on the child's age," Taryn W. Morrissey, Ph.D., one of the report's authors and an assistant professor with the department of public administration and policy at American University, told ABC News.

She noted the difference doesn't make it more likely that a working mother's child will fall into overweight or obese BMI category than any other child, just more likely that the child will be nudged into the higher end of the normal range.

Morrissey seemed like a very smart woman but I didn't really want to talk to her. I was more interested in speaking in one of her co-authors who herself is a working mother. She was out of the country on business.

Morrissey explained that the authors found no association between how much time a mother spends at the office and the amount of time her brood spends exercising or parked in front of the TV.  Although they didn't find a relationship, they suspect the difference is down to harried, multitasking working mothers resorting more often to fast food and takeout rather than preparing meals at home.

The correlation between maternal employment and BMI was strongest among higher income families.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio