Los Angeles – A new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, published in the International Journal of Obesity says that some 54 million Americans who are labeled as obese or overweight according to their body mass index (BMI) are actually healthy.
Researchers used data from the National Nutritional Health and Nutritional Examination Survey to analyze the link between BMI and several health markers, including blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and found that almost half of Americans who are considered overweight by their BMIs are in fact healthy.
This general mistake goes the other way around, too. The study suggested that more than 30% of those with normal BMIs are actually unhealthy based on their other health data when they are compared to those categorized as obese or very obese.
The study’s lead author A. Janet Tomiyama, who directs UCLA’s Dieting, Stress and Health laboratory, also found in previous research that there was no clear connection between weight loss and health improvements related to hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The study was conducted as part of a research on health insurance. According to the International Journal of Obesity, employers are using BMI in order to determine which employees are “unhealthy” and charge up to 30% more for health insurance. This means employers are charging people with unfairly high insurance costs due to the fact that they were obese on the BMI scale.
“There are healthy people who could be penalized based on a faulty health measure while the unhealthy people of normal weight will fly under the radar and won’t get charged more for their health insurance. Employers, policy makers and insurance companies should focus on actual health markers,” Tomiyama said.
She said she strongly believes employers are relying so deeply on BMI because it is easy to measure. But she added that getting blood pressure is pretty easy too and it is surely a more reliable method. Tomiyama also said people should focus on better health markers like blood pressure, particularly when they consider applying financial penalties.