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Body Fat Is a Big Deal

By on March 11, 2016
mid section view of a man sitting on a bench in a park

People who have more body fat — regardless of their size – may have a higher risk of dying early than people whose bodies have less fat, new research suggests.

In contrast, having a high body-mass index — a measure of weight in relation to height, often used to gauge obesity — was not associated with early death in the study.

The investigators said the findings support the idea that BMI is a fairly crude measure that may not reflect a person’s body composition, or be a good indicator of health. Someone with a lot of muscle mass, for example, may have a high BMI and, technically, fall into the “overweight” category, explained researcher Dr. William Leslie.

So the relationship between body size and health “is more nuanced than the number on your bathroom scale,” said Leslie, a professor of medicine and radiology at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada.

“It’s important to be attuned to what you’re made of, rather than just how much you weigh,” Leslie said.

The findings, published online March 8 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, may offer one explanation for the so-called “obesity paradox.”