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Fit but fat? 54 million Americans are overweight but still pretty healthy, researchers claim


(NaturalNews) How do you tell if a person is healthy? Without any other information, we are taught to assess an individual's health based on their appearance. While their physical presence does give the outside world some information, it hides the most important evidence: blood pressure, how fast they recover after exercise, and their blood sugar levels. We've known for quite some time now that the BMI (body mass index) is flawed, for at least one reason.

No ratio between your height and weight can determine your health, because it does not take into account what you're actually made of – literally. The easiest way to prove the BMI wrong is to look at Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. His weight and height can be identical to that of a person that does no exercise – 6 feet tall and 211 pounds. The index cannot tell whether a person has 50 pounds of muscular tissue on them or 10.

Flawed, but still used

The only reason behind the BMI's continued existence is comfort. It's easy to assess someone's health according to their height and weight, so why not do it and get to more important things? However, when you're a health insurance company or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), using the BMI is a form of discrimination. The truth is that an individual's weight is just a variable in the equation of their health, and not the most important one at that.

Numerous studies have proven that heavier people can actually be healthier than their normal-weighted counterparts. This may seem odd, because we are used to categorizing slender individuals as healthy, but the fact is that extra pounds are not always an accurate reflection of the status of your health. On the other hand, what foods you eat, the amount of exercise you do, and whether you smoke and drink, are vital aspects of your well-being.

Even if you're officially overweight according to the BMI, your risk of heart-attack or cardiovascular complications can easily be lower than that of someone of normal weight. Scientists from the University of California have recently made this point, once again.

Classified as obese and overweight, yet healthy

Because of the inherent flaws of the BMI formula, researcher Jeff Hunger from California U pointed out that 47 percent of Americans who are deemed overweight or obese are, ironically, perfectly healthy. They may eat more; they may weigh more; but they are physically in better shape than we are led to believe. Knowing this, he carefully examined the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and found that body mass index is still used as a health marker, despite its flaws.

Besides leading to discrimination, the nature of BMI allows for individuals whose health may be in grave danger to be assessed as risk-free. "Not only does BMI mislabel 54 million heavier individuals as unhealthy, it actually overlooks a large group of individuals considered to have a 'healthy' BMI who are actually unhealthy when you look at underlying clinical indicators. We used a fairly strict definition of health. You had to be at clinically healthy levels on four out of the five health indicators assessed," Jeff Hunger said.

What you should actually look at

With the help of science, doctors are able to tell more about a person's health from their blood pressure and sugar than from their height and weight. If these are out of parameters, then it's very likely that something is wrong, and more tests should be done to find out what that might be. This can be the case with any BMI – underweight, normal or overweight.

For a complete picture, endurance should also be tested, along with the rate of recovery after exercise. The time has come for us to train ourselves to look beyond appearances when we seek to form such a complex opinion about a person. Whether we're discussing our personal relationships, or financially penalizing "unhealthy" people, it's good to remember that one cannot solely rely on the surface.

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