Want a healthy body? It’s all about that fat and muscle, not your BMI

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You know your body weight. You may even know your BMI, or body mass index.  But do you know what your body is made of?

If the answer is “too much fat and not enough muscle,” that’s bad news — no matter what you weigh.

“Body composition is the key to truly understanding health,” says Lauri Wright, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Florida and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While most people who are “overweight” also are “over fat,” she says, it’s the fat that’s dangerous. You also can be “skinny fat,” she says — carrying too little muscle and too much fat at a normal weight.

All of this is well known to experts in obesity, diet and exercise. But the experts say the public continues to struggle with the concept of body composition, even as research makes it increasingly clear that fat and flabbiness, not pounds alone, are the enemy.

The latest evidence: a big Canadian study of more than 50,000 people, mostly women over age 40.  Researchers looked at BMI — a measurement of weight in relation to height — and at body fat percentages obtained from scans. The major finding, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine: People with the most body fat, more than 35% fat for men and 38% fat for women, were the most likely to die within a few years, regardless of weight and BMI.

 

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