Biotechnology

One third of people with normal weight are obese

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Researchers from the School of Public Health at the TAU School of Medicine examined anthropometric data from around 3,000 Israeli women and men and concluded that body fat percentage is a much more reliable indicator of an individual’s overall health and cardiometabolic risk than the BMI index, which is widely used. at the clinic today. The researchers suggest that body fat percentage should be the gold standard in this regard and recommend equipping clinics across Israel with suitable devices.

  • Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that the widely used measure of Body Mass Index (BMI) is less sensitive for determining obesity than we thought.
  • The researchers recommend equipping clinics with devices to measure body fat percentage and eventually turning this index into the gold standard of obesity (for assessing excess fat) in Israel and worldwide.

Researchers from the School of Public Health at the TAU School of Medicine examined anthropometric data from around 3,000 Israeli women and men and concluded that body fat percentage is a much more reliable indicator of an individual’s overall health and cardiometabolic risk than the BMI index, which is widely used. at the clinic today. The researchers suggest that body fat percentage should be the gold standard in this regard and recommend equipping clinics across Israel with suitable devices.

The study – the largest of its kind ever conducted in Israel, was led by Prof. Yftach Gepner and PhD student Yair Lahav, working with Aviv Kfir. That and is based on data from the Yair Lahav Center for Nutrition in Tel Aviv. This paper is published in Frontier in Nutrition.

Prof Gepner: “Israel is a leader in childhood obesity and more than 60% of adults in the country are defined as overweight. The index that applies in this case is BMI, based on weight and height, which is considered a standard indicator of a person’s general health. However, despite the obvious intuitive link between overweight and obesity, the real measure of obesity is body fat content, with maximum normal values ​​set at 25% for men and 35% for women. A higher fat content is defined as obesity and can lead to a variety of potentially life-threatening cardiometabolic diseases: heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver, kidney dysfunction and many more. The difference between the two indices has resulted in a phenomenon known as the ‘normal-weight obesity paradox’ – a higher than normal percentage of body fat in individuals of normal weight. In this study we examined the prevalence of this phenomenon in the Israeli adult population.”

The researchers analyzed anthropometric data from 3,000 Israeli women and men, accumulated over several years: BMI scores; DXA scan (uses X-rays to measure body composition, including fat content); and cardiometabolic blood markers. About a third of the participants, 1,000 people, were found to be within the normal weight range. Of these, 38.5% of women and 26.5% of men identified as ‘normal weight obese’ – having excess fat content despite their normal weight. Matching body fat percentage to blood markers for each of these individuals, the study found a significant correlation between ‘normal weight obesity’ and high levels of sugar, fat and cholesterol – major risk factors for various cardiometabolic diseases. At the same time, 30% of men and 10% of women who were identified as overweight were found to have a normal body fat percentage.

Prof. Gepner: “Our findings are somewhat concerning, suggesting that normal-weight obesity is much more common in Israel than we thought. In addition, these people, who are within the norm according to the prevailing BMI index, usually pass ‘under the radar’. Unlike people who are identified as overweight, they receive no treatment or instructions to change their nutrition or lifestyle – which puts them at greater risk of cardiometabolic disease.”

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that body fat percentage is a more reliable indicator of a person’s general health than BMI. As a result, they suggest that body fat percentage should be an accepted health standard, and recommend several tools that are convenient and accessible for this purpose: skinfold measurements that estimate body fat based on the thickness of the fat layer beneath the skin; and an easy-to-use device for measuring the body’s electrical conductivity, which has been used in many gyms.

Prof. Gepner: “Our research found that normal-weight obesity is very common in Israel, much more so than we previously thought, and that it is significantly correlated with substantial health risks. However, people who are ‘obese of normal weight’ are not identified by the current index, BMI. We also found that body fat percentage is a much more reliable indicator than BMI in relation to a person’s general health. Therefore, we recommend equipping all clinics with appropriate devices for measuring body fat content, and gradually turning this into a gold standard both in Israel and worldwide, to prevent illness and premature death.”

Link to article:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2023.1173488/full


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