A recent study published in the March 28 issue of Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health has found that the dangers of being underweight are even riskier than being overweight. The study, which spanned five years and followed 51 people, was performed in St. Michael’s Hospital and Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, both located in Toronto, Canada. The study was started and led by Dr. Joel Ray at St. Michael’s Hospital, in order to focus on the obesity epidemic in the United States and to find the connection between deaths relating to body mass index, or BMI. The researchers participating in the study also reviewed more than 50 prior studies, comparing average-weight individuals to those that were viewed as underweight. Death rates among newborns and still-born that were both considered underweight and overweight were also studied.
Their research in the study finds that all people regardless of age, who are classified as underweight with a body mass index of 18.5 or lower, have nearly twice the threat of death than those who fall into the average BMI range, which falls between 18.5 and 25.9. In comparison, people who are classified as obese (with a BMI that ranges from 30 and 34.9), have a 1.2 greater risk of death than the average-sized people. The severely obese fared just slightly higher at 1.3 greater chance of death. The study also found that the fetuses whether underweight or overweight, stand the same risk of becoming either stillborn or dying while in the womb.
The study also found that the majority of the subjects that were classified as being in the underweight range suffered from multiple health risks, including being malnourished, involved in drug abuse, relying heavily on the use of alcohol, chain-smoking, and poor mental health and low self-esteem.
It has been concluded from the study that the best thing for people to do is to try to keep their body weight in a healthy range.
The leader of the study on the risks of being underweight stated that there is no doubt that the epidemic concerning overweight people is real and genuine. However, with most public health campaigns aimed at encouraging the fight against obesity, there is the added risk of affecting people who are already at a healthy weight or are slightly overweight who might become the unintended targets.
Dr. Joel Ray also mentioned that fat accumulating on the buttocks, thighs and hips are not particularly dangerous or at risk for diabetes, stroke or heart disease. Instead, people need to focus on the fat on the stomach and abdomen. There is a risk involved when the measurement for waist circumference for overweight men is greater than 102 cm for men and greater than 88 cm for women.
“We have an obligation,” Dr. Joel Ray has said. “To make sure that we do not encourage an epidemic of people who are underweight, when they would, in actuality, be at the proper weight. Body mass index reflects muscle mass, not just body fat. We must understand that a healthy individual who is also robust happens to be a person who has a good amount of bone and muscle and body fat. If we are to concentrate on the downsides and negatives concerning excessive body fat on someone, then we need to replace measuring one’s BMI with something more suitable, such as measuring the circumference of the waist.”
By Jessica Cooley