Duncan Fine talks sense on BMI

It’s not anything that our readers familiar with Shapely Prose don’t know, but using the BMI as the sole determinant of whether someone is overweight or obese is a really unreliable measurement. Given the hysteria this week about Australia’s “obesity crisis” and the plan to weigh all 4 year olds and label them for the rest of their school lives as “weight problems” needing strict monitoring, it’s refreshing to see a sensible voice in one our of broadsheet op-eds.

What needs to be targeted is fitness and sedentary habits, not BMI. And such programs need to be sensitive to natural bodily variations instead of being primarily concerned with the aesthetics of fat and societal disapproval of same.

Categories: education, health, skepticism

Tags: , , ,

7 replies

  1. Many thanks – love this cool blog

  2. Hiya Duncan – keep on fighting the good fight!

  3. A news release on a recent study:

    America’s seniors who get a regular dose of physical activity live longer than unfit adults, regardless of their body fat, according to researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health.
    “Fitness level is a strong predictor for risk of dying in older adults,” said Dr. Steven N. Blair, an Arnold School professor and one of the study’s authors.
    Fit men and women who were overweight or obese had a lower risk for death than did those who were of normal weight but had low fitness levels, he said.

  4. While it seems obvious that physical exercise is a Good Thing, the scientist in me can’t help wondering how much of the effect is a healthy-user effect. People who are feeling healthy and well are more likely to run around, participate in sport, etc than people who aren’t.
    How to tease out the healthy-user effect? A randomised controlled fitness-advice intervention examined on an intention-to-treat basis? It’s difficult stuff, particularly since we’re all pretty much saturated with “GO AND GET FIT” messages already; and controlling for regular intervention by a trainer would be a tricky business.
    But if we’re questioning assumptions, we have to question all of them.

  5. The healthy-user effect is an important variable to consider, I agree. I’m not sure whether anybody has fully examined it!
    This study of the efficacy of the Health At Every Size (HAES) approach compared to traditional dieting coaching didn’t control specifically for the healthy user effect, but the results would seem to show some important differences in results due to exercise – after two years the HAES cohort had kept up an exercise habit to a greater degree than the dieting cohort, both were about the same weight as before the study (the HAES cohort remained stable, the diet cohort lost and regained), yet only the HAES cohort showed a consistent drop in cholesterol and systolic blood pressure.

  6. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm
    Emma Peel………..

  7. Your kind of hoyden? You might enjoy this then, Duncan.
    Friday Hoyden: Diana Rigg as Emma Peel

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