Health and Body Mass Index - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 01-29-2016, 10:17 AM
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Health and Body Mass Index

So we're always being told that a huge percentage of Westerners are "overweight" and that because they're overweight they are at risk of all kinds of illnesses that could shorten their lives.

Yet this puzzles me. Why is a BMI of X labelled "normal" while a BMI of Y labelled "overweight"? What does it actually mean and how were those attributions determined in the first place?

I think in particular what makes it interesting and confusing is that studies have linked being "overweight" to increased longevity when compared to those of a "normal" weight. So arguably being "overweight" (so-called) is more healthy than being a "normal" weight.

Has anyone done any reading around this issue.

Here's one article from the Indy that is worth a look but maybe others here would be able pitch in and discuss?

Despite the fact that study after study has demonstrated quite clearly that "overweight" people live the longest, no one can bring themselves to say: "Sorry, we were wrong. A BMI between 25 and 29 is the healthiest weight of all.
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#2 Old 01-29-2016, 11:16 AM
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Thanks for posting! I'm sharing this. I have a big problem with the way we talk about weight, as though it were a direct indicator of health and character. It isn't.
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#3 Old 01-29-2016, 11:23 AM
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Here is the Journal of the American Medical Association study to which this article refers: . The study found that being overweight was not associated with excess mortality. However, the study did find that being obese, or being underweight, IS associated with excess mortality.

The problem with UK Independent article is that it doesn't differentiate between being overweight and being obese. People who read the article might conclude that being obese won't shorten your life, but the JAMA study clearly says that being obese IS likely to shorten your life.

Also, although being overweight may not shorten your life, it is a risk factor for both diabetes complications and for breast cancer, diseases which degrade quality of life, and can cause disfigurement.

I don't think that this article was responsibly written. Also, this article was written by Malcolm Kendrick, a physician who claims that high cholesterol levels don't increase the risk of heart disease: . The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology say just the opposite:


Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
- United Nations' World Health Organization
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#4 Old 01-29-2016, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by no whey jose View Post
I have a big problem with the way we talk about weight, as though it were a direct indicator of health and character. It isn't.
Totally agree, especially with it falsely being an indicator of character.

People that are overweight are not taken seriously, typically made fun of, get eyes rolled at them when they try to work out or eat healthy, and can have a much lower chance of being hired for a job.

The wife and I could probably lose a few pounds, but we're happy with our current weights. A few examples of issues I've come across with:

While the wife and I love all kinds of foods, we do like salads, so we buy a heck of a lot of leafy vegetables. Every January, the cashier at the supermarket always makes some offhand comment about 'trying to lose weight, huh'. Nope. We just like salad.

Another example, I pack my lunch at work every day. The wife and I have a bunch of reusable containers so we're not wasteful. Apparently one of my coworkers thinks that I do it to keep my 'servings in check'. Nope. Just trying to be an earth-friendly person.
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#5 Old 01-29-2016, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by no whey jose View Post
Thanks for posting! I'm sharing this. I have a big problem with the way we talk about weight, as though it were a direct indicator of health and character. It isn't.
Agree. With reference to the point you make about 'character' the popularly drawn correlations (can we say "Daily Mail"?) between overweight and those attributes traditionally associated to a poor moral character (ie: weak, lazy, greedy) seems in part to be a modern reframing of the old "feckless poor" narrative, where poverty is seen as a consequence of a bad character (so rather than feeling a twinge of guilt at the starving poor littering the streets, the rich could feel comfortable in their moral and spiritual superiority).

Arguably the way we perceive moral value in the relative shapes and sizes of bodies has shifted in accordance with the ways wealth and poverty in the modern world have impacted diet. Thus we no longer have a starving feckless poor ("wasteful and lazy") in the West but an obese feckless poor ("greedy and lazy"). We no longer aspire to be rounded and abundant (a former indicator of success and affluence, both in the West and elsewhere) but instead to be very thin (a more modern indicator of success and affluence in the West).
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Last edited by Spudulika; 01-29-2016 at 01:18 PM.
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#6 Old 01-29-2016, 12:48 PM
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I’ve been underweight, overweight, and in all parts of the “normal” range, and I don’t think I've ever felt good about the way my body looked. Even if you work out and have wonderful muscle tone and athletic ability, there’s a huge industry out there to convince you that your boobs are too small and your butt is too big, or that you’re top-heavy or knock-kneed, or that your hair is too thin, your legs are too short for how long your trunk is, and that you need to spend a lot of money to let them help you camouflage your “flaws." Skinny people get knocks on their characters too, that they are nervous control freaks, or judgmental, or mean, or arrogant. I think about six really important sectors of the economy would just collapse if we all woke up one morning feeling great about ourselves. What could they sell us if that happened?
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#7 Old 01-29-2016, 01:59 PM
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Judging health just on weight is quite naive and myopic in my experience. Some people gain and keep weight quite easily while others stay thin no matter what. Genetics, drug use, overwork, too much stress, etc. can keep some people thin no matter what. I'm one of those. Genetics and a spinal injury from child abuse kept me from ever going above the very low end of normal weight. I grew up on a diet exclusively composed of junk food, meat, and candy. Half the people I knew called me lucky and the other half (including some doctors) laughed at me and called me a crack head. It took a long time before I really looked at other such people that were older than I and watched them slowly dying screaming in pain from the diseases they got from diets that 'should have made them fat'. Watching my father die like that is what finally made me snap.
Thats why some studies show no real benefit of being thin, because they look at a fairly homogenous population eating horrible to outright abhorrent diets.
To quote a particularly wise paper from the medical literature
...If everyone smoked 20 cigarettes a day, then clinical, case-control and cohort studies alike would lead us to conclude that lung cancer was a genetic disease; and in one sense that would be true, since if everyone is exposed to the necessary agent, then the distribution of cases is wholly determined by individual susceptibility.
Sick individuals and sick populations (rose,2001)
(The full text of that paper is free and available in HTML or PDF formats, if anyone has any interest whatsoever in reading medical literature I recommend reading that paper in full)
Originally Posted by Joan Kennedy View Post
sectors of the economy would just collapse if we all woke up one morning feeling great about ourselves. What could they sell us if that happened?
Thailand once gave an amusingly blatant inadvertent acknowledgement to that principal. In old thailand the monks taught people to be content, friendly, and happy. Families often just had a one room hut for ten people but they were happy. When the government decided to 'modernize' society in the 70's they had trouble convincing people to work to develop industrial sectors, why bother when your happy already right?
So the government actually plastered the countryside with billboards with slogans like 'Your not happy, buy more things!'
The sad part was when the campaign worked.
Be bad for the economy- be happy!
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#8 Old 01-29-2016, 02:05 PM
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BMI is a load of **** though. I think it was invented at a time when they didn't take into consideration that muscle weighs more than fat. BMI results can be all over the place and not a true indication of your health. My Mum is a nurse and teaches nursing and she said that teaching about BMI has been removed from the curriculum, as it's been proven to be a very ineffective way to measure weight.
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