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Health

Millions more middle-aged people are obese, study finds

  • By Philippa Roxby
  • Health journalist

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Fat can accumulate around the waist as we age

Millions of middle-aged people were led to falsely believe they were not obese, according to an Italian study that looked at body fat percentage rather than body mass index.

According to the researchers, using a new, lower BMI threshold for obesity would give a more accurate picture of those affected.

With age, muscle decreases and fat accumulates around the organs at the waist, often without a change in weight.

The challenge is to find a tool that can easily screen for obesity.

BMI is calculated by dividing an adult’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters.

  • 18.5-25 suggests a healthy weight
  • 25-29 years old they are overweight
  • 30 or more they are obese

It’s a quick and easy method, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), and fairly accurate in most people most of the time – but it can’t tell the difference between fat , muscles and bones.

Only 38% of men and 41% of women had a BMI above 30. But when their body fat percentage was calculated using scans, 71% and 64% were found to be obese.

“If we continue to use WHO standards for obesity screening, we will miss many middle-aged and older adults who are at risk of developing obesity-related diseases, including diabetes. type 2, heart disease and certain cancers”, co-author, Prof. » said Antonino De Lorenzo.

According to the researchers, a BMI of 27 should be used to define obesity in the future.

“Establishing this new BMI threshold in clinical settings and in obesity guidelines will benefit the potential health of millions of older people,” said Professor De Lorenzo.

The study is one of many that have suggested different BMI cutoffs over the years.

Still, BMI is unlikely to be abandoned any time soon – it’s much cheaper than scanning people to accurately quantify their body fat.

The researchers admit that larger studies in other countries are needed to confirm the results. This study only looked at adults from one region of Italy and did not look at the distribution of fat in people’s bodies, only the percentage of fat in the body.

It also didn’t ask people about their diet or exercise habits to determine why some people might be at greater risk of obesity than others.

On its own, it is also unclear whether body fat analysis would be a definitive measure.

“We need a simple obesity screening tool that can be accessible to everyone,” said co-author Professor Marwan El Ghoch, from the University of Beirut.

Professor Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow, said: “Rather than reducing obesity thresholds to 27, which would mean around half of adults in the UK are living with obesity, Other definitions of obesity, including waist circumference, combined with specific signs and symptoms of excess weight will likely be more informative.

The search for the right tool continues.

News Source : www.bbc.com
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