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What your BMI does and doesn’t reveal

Read this before getting all crazy about your numbers. | Gannett News Service

So when I saw the headline on the New York Times website, that weight gain has its risks even if it’s done by people of normal weight, I thought, gotta go back and read that.

Well, I did. And there’s a study that’s been tied to this advice. Yet I’m still going to take this one with a grain of salt. Let me explain.

The study, led by Peter Wurtz of the University of Oulu in Finland, studied close to 13,000 young adults in Finland. The researchers studied their Body Mass Index (BMI) and measured it against 32 gene variants. It determined that increases in one’s Body Mass Index (BMI) up one’s cardiovascular risks even if the person’s BMI remains in the healthy range. Here’s the NYT story.

And that’s where I have to say: timeout. The thing about BMI is it doesn’t take into account whether a person is muscular or flabby. Two people can have the same BMI, yet there’s nothing in that rating to distinguish between someone who works out and is solid muscle and a person whose body is a bowl of Jell-O. It doesn’t tell you if that person came to his or her number from eating good, whole foods or a diet of highly processed fast food. That’s my problem with the BMI.

I don’t like this one quote within the story, either, from Wurtz, who told the New York Times: “Even with a normal BMI of 24, it’s worth it to try to get it lower.”


That’s advice that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Some 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States have what’s called a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their lives, according to stats on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website. The last thing people with eating disorders need to hear is that even a normal BMI of 24 could be lower and that’s healthy.

So, don’t make yourself too crazy over this one. If you want to be healthy, eat good foods, and by that I mean protein, veggies, some fruits, as close to their natural state as possible. Watch out for those carbs if you have a tendency to gain weight. Try to avoid refined carbs as much as possible.

Get regular exercise, not to lose weight but to keep your body strong, so you can walk up stairs without wheezing and run around the yard when your kids want to play. And don’t skimp on sleep or water.