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Having an "overweight" BMI may not necessarily result in an increased risk of premature death

By: April Carson

A study has discovered that being in the overweight range on the body mass index (BMI) scale does not necessarily increase the risk of death. This research adds to the mounting evidence that BMI alone is an inadequate measure of a person's overall health. It emphasizes the importance of considering other factors beyond BMI when assessing one's well-being.

A study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, examined the correlation between BMI and the likelihood of mortality from any cause. The study analyzed data from over 550,000 U.S. adults over approximately nine years.

The findings indicated that individuals aged 65 and above, with body mass indexes (BMIs) ranging from 22.5 to 34.9, did not exhibit a noteworthy increase in the risk of mortality. Similarly, younger adults with BMIs between 22.5 and 27.4 also showed no significant association with higher mortality rates. It is worth noting that a BMI of 25 or higher is generally classified as overweight, while a BMI of 30 or higher falls into the category of obesity.

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a metric used for decades to evaluate weight as an indicator of health. It involves dividing a person's weight by the square of their height. However, critics argue that relying solely on BMI may overlook important factors such as body fat percentage and the varying risk of diseases among different races and genders. They emphasize the need to consider a more comprehensive approach when assessing an individual's health.

In a recent development, the American Medical Association has embraced a policy recommending that physicians employ supplementary indicators, such as waist circumference, body fat distribution, and genetic factors, to comprehensively evaluate a patient's overall health status. This comprehensive approach aims to enhance the precision and effectiveness of health assessments.

Dr. Aayush Visaria, an internal medicine resident at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and co-author of the study, affirms that the research findings align with the latest guidelines.

"Our findings essentially validate numerous other studies conducted in recent years. While not on this scale, they essentially confirm that relying solely on BMI as an indicator of health risk is inadequate," explained Visaria.

According to his statement, waist circumference might serve as a more powerful indicator. The study examined individuals with identical BMIs but varying waist circumferences and discovered that the latter was linked to a greater overall risk of mortality.

However, the study findings did reveal that individuals with a BMI of 30 or higher were confronted with an increased risk of mortality. Additionally, among younger adults, a BMI falling between 27.5 and 29.9 was found to be associated with an approximately 20% higher risk.

According to Dr. Fatima Stanford, an obesity medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the research, relying solely on BMI to assess health can overlook crucial factors. Leanness may be associated with health, but it shouldn't overshadow other important considerations. Dr. Stanford pointed out that substance abuse disorders, tobacco use, and disordered eating can contribute to a lean physique, yet they do not necessarily indicate good health.

“Where BMI is concerned, a one size fits all approach will not work. It’s important to look at the unique characteristics of each patient and use them to guide your assessments," Stanford concluded.

Previous research has uncovered limitations in using BMI as a sole measure for identifying obesity or assessing the risk of weight-related diseases. In a 2016 study, it was discovered that nearly half of the participants were classified as overweight and 29% of those labeled as obese were metabolically healthy. Surprisingly, more than 30% of individuals with "normal" weights were found to be metabolically unhealthy. These findings challenge the conventional understanding of weight and health, emphasizing the complexity of the relationship between body weight and metabolic well-being.

Stanford further highlighted that the categorization of BMI does not fully consider variations that occur across different racial and ethnic groups. Research indicates, for instance, that individuals of Asian descent may be at a heightened risk of developing metabolic disorders such as diabetes and hypertension even at a BMI lower than the typical thresholds.

Dr. Jaime Almandoz, the medical director of the Weight Wellness Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, pointed out several limitations in the study. First and foremost, he emphasized that the study solely focuses on the relationship between BMI and the risk of mortality.

“The study looked at mortality, not morbidity, so it’s important to note that BMI may still be associated with an increased risk of certain conditions like cardiovascular disease," Almandoz said.

Almandoz also commented on the limited scope of the data examined in the study. He highlighted that incorporating additional variables such as physical activity and diet may help paint a more accurate picture of the relationship between BMI and health.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals with a BMI of 25 or higher are at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, and various forms of cancer.

Almandoz also highlighted that the study fails to fully capture the extent of obesity among the population. While only 27% of the participants had a BMI greater than 30, a CDC survey estimated that 42% of U.S. adults are affected by obesity. This discrepancy underscores the need for further investigation and a more comprehensive understanding of the prevalence of obesity in our society.

In conclusion, the findings from the study fail to firmly establish a link between having an 'overweight' BMI and increased mortality rates. However, more comprehensive approaches that factor in variables such as physical activity and diet may help assess health risks associated with a higher body mass index.

While BMI is useful for general assessments of health, it should not be relied upon exclusively. It is important to consider complementary indicators and a more in-depth evaluation when determining an individual's health status.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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