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54 million falsely labeled 'unhealthy' based on BMI, researchers say

By Marilyn Malara   |   Feb. 6, 2016 at 1:24 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Body Mass Index is an inaccurate method of determining a person's overall health, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles said.

In a study published this week in the International Journal of Obesity, psychologists say over 54 million Americans with higher BMIs are mislabeled as "unhealthy," which has the power to determine their healthcare premiums and other costs.

"Many people see obesity as a death sentence," said the study's lead author A. Janet Tomlyama. "But the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy."

Researchers from UCLA completed their research using data from the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found 47.4 percent, or 34.4 million, people considered "overweight" -- and 19.8 million of those considered "obese" -- to be healthy.

The team also found 30 percent of those with considerably "normal" BMIs are actually unhealthy when other health markers like blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were considered.

The findings come as those labeled "unhealthy" because of BMI are forced to pay higher health care costs than their fellow Americans with lower BMIs, despite their internal health levels.

"There are healthy people who could be penalized based on a faulty health measure, while the unhealthy people of normal weight will fly under the radar and won't get charged more for their health insurance," Tomlyama said. "Employers, policy makers and insurance companies should focus on actual health markers."

"This should be the final nail in the coffin for BMI," co-author Jeffrey Hunger of UC Santa Barbara said.

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