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Breakthrough Study Finds U.S. Obesity Worse Than Ever

By New You Editorial
Posted On Apr 04, 2012

A new update of the old way to measure fat reveals how obese we really are

NEW YORK, NY, Apr. 4, 2012 (New You Media) — For almost two centuries, the Body Mass Index (BMI) formula has been the gold standard for estimating body fat—a simple formula that compares height to weight. Even that flawed test has diagnosed over one-third of American adults and 17 percent of American children as obese. The truly frightening revelation in a new study released this week is that these numbers have been grossly underestimated.

The study, published in the science journal PLoS One, found that nearly half of women and one in five men are misdiagnosed as healthy when their body-fat composition indicates they are obese.

These findings have broad health implications for the American public, since obesity is one of the main culprits behind such deadly age-related diseases as hypertension and diabetes. “BMI doesn’t tell you how much fat or adiposity you have,” says Eric Braverman, MD, a New York-based physician and lead author of the study. Yet, says Dr. Braverman, “that is the predictor of heart disease, cancer, stroke, gallbladder [and] fertility problems, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, etc.”

Drs. Braverman and Nirav Shah, co-authors of the study, recognize the convenience and low cost of the BMI formula, yet insist it is “an outdated mathematical equation which needs to evolve in order to correctly evaluate body fat.” In their study, the doctors used a ‘DXA’ (Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan that simultaneously measures bone density, muscle mass and body fat. Since this test can cost hundreds of dollars, the authors also suggest an inexpensive test for Leptin, which is a hormone associated with obesity. The result: A far more accurate appraisal of how much fat you really have.

“These estimates are fundamental to U.S. policy addressing the epidemic of obesity and are central to designing interventions aimed at curbing its growth,” says Dr. Braverman. “Current policies may be flawed because they are based on the BMI.”

This is particularly significant for women older than 50, who have normal BMI ratings for weight, but high Leptin levels “Particularly in women, as they age, their muscles become inserted with fat, even though they stay thin and beautiful in a dress,” says Dr. Braverman. Leptin is the first blood test useful in the diagnosis and treatment of obesity, and regulating Leptin levels can lead to permanent weight loss.

“We may be much further behind than we thought” say the authors about the nation’s obesity crisis. “The public health crisis of obesity, like diabetes, requires earlier and earlier detection.”