Timi Gustafson, R.D.

Helping people to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

  • Comments

More Than Weight, Body Fat Raises Health Risks, Studies Find

October 5th, 2013 at Sat, 5th, 2013 at 5:14 pm by timigustafson

To determine the risk of diet and lifestyle–related illnesses in their patients, such as diabetes or heart disease, doctors have traditionally looked at the Body-Mass-Index (BMI), a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. But that may soon be a thing of the past because more precise indicators are becoming increasingly common in medical care.

The BMI formula is not a very good tool when it comes to gauging body fat because it doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle mass. Many people with a “normal” BMI can still carry dangerously high amounts of body fat, which increases their risk of developing a number of potentially life-threatening diseases, especially as they get older, according to Dr. John Batsis, a geriatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and one of the authors of a recent study report on mortality rates among normal-weight and overweight heart disease patients.

“Just because someone has a normal BMI does not necessarily mean they are metabolically normal,” he told Reuters Health.

Participants in his study who had the highest percentages of body fat were also most likely to suffer from high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that are indicators for illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

A better method of measuring body fat would be a scanning procedure known as DEXA (acronym for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), by which fat levels and fat distribution can be viewed inside the body, although the technology may currently be too expensive for wider use.

Other alternative measuring types to BMI are waist circumference and waist-hip ratio, which can easily be performed at home.

Multiple studies have shown that extended waist circumference is often associated with coronary heart disease. One of the reasons for this is that excess fat, particularly around the waist, is believed to cause inflammation.

“It is well known that obesity […] is closely linked with heart disease,” said Dr. Tongjian You, a researcher at Wake Forest University medical school, to WebMD in an interview about his own study on connections between body fat and heart disease.

“While we don’t fully understand the link between obesity and heart disease, our study suggests that inflammatory proteins produced by fat itself may play a role,” he said.

More specifically, by producing these proteins, fat cells in the body may help to fuel harmful inflammatory processes that potentially lead to heart disease and stroke.

In short, there is more to body fat than what scales and mirrors can reveal. Fat doesn’t just sit idly, it does real damage to people’s health.

While it is not clear yet whether the threats – caused by inflammatory proteins from fat or otherwise – diminish with weight loss, shedding extra pounds has multiple benefits and should be pursued for better health in any case.

Connect with us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).

About Timi Gustafson, R.D. As a clinical dietitian, health counselor, book author, syndicated newspaper columnist and, as of late, blogger, she has been able to reach millions of people, addressing their concerns about issues of health, lifestyle and nutrition. As Co-founder and Director of Nutrition Services for Cyberdiet.com (now Mediconsult.com), she created the first nutrition-related interactive website on the Internet in 1995. Many of the features you find on her blog, www.timigustafson.com, are based on the pioneering work of those days. Today, her goals remain the same: Helping people to achieve optimal health of body and mind. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics from San José State University in California and completed a Clinical Dietetic Internship at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. She is a registered dietitian and Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an active member of the Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a member of the Diabetes Care and Education, Dietitians in Business and Communications, Healthy Aging, Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition, and the Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Groups. For more information about Timi Gustafson R.D. please visit: www.timigustafson.com

More articles by  >
ABOUT COMMUNITY BLOGS: Community blogs are written by volunteers. They are members of our community but not employees of this site or newspaper. They have applied or were invited to blog here but their words are their own and are not edited by the editor or staff of this site, and have agreed to abide by our Terms of Use. The authors are solely responsible for their content. If you have concerns about something you read on a community blog, please contact the author directly or email us.

COMMENTING RULES: We encourage an open exchange of ideas in the PNWLocalNews.com community, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. In a nutshell, don't say anything you wouldn't want your mother to read.

So keep your comments:

  • Civil
  • Smart
  • On-topic
  • Free of profanity

We ask that all participants own their words by logging in with their Facebook account. It's a simple process that will take seconds and helps keep our comments free of trolls, cranks, and “drive-by” commenters. We reserve the right to remove comments from anyone using screen names, pseudonyms or false identities. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.