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How Overweight is Obese?

BMI: The Facts on Overweight, Obesity, & Fat

Running Man: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain Image

Overweight refers to an excess of body weight, but not necessarily body fat. Obesity means an excessively high proportion of body fat. Health professionals use a measurement called body mass index (BMI) to classify an adult's weight as healthy, overweight, or obese. BMI describes body weight relative to height and is correlated with total body fat content in most adults. For the curious, we provide a free BMI index calculator on this website.

Understanding the BMI: The Rules, and the Exceptions

Note carefully the above statement again: "BMI describes body weight relative to height and is correlated with total body fat content in most adults." Most doesn't mean all.

You have to understand the general nature of the BMI to know when it doesn't exactly apply. A BMI from 18.5 up to 25 is considered in the healthy range, from 25 up to 30 is overweight, and 30 or higher is obese. Generally, the higher a person's BMI, the greater the risk for health problems, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). However, there are some exceptions. For example, very muscular people, like body builders, may have a BMI greater than 25 or even 30, but this reflects increased muscle rather than fat.

What Are the Real Risks?

"It is excess body fat that leads to the health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol," says Eric Colman, M.D., of the FDA's Division of Metabolic and Endocrine Drug Products.

In addition to a high BMI, having excess abdominal body fat is a health risk. Men with a waist of more than 40 inches around and women with a waist of 35 inches or more are at risk for health problems.

Calculating Your BMI

To get your approximate BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, then divide the result by your height in inches, and divide that result by your height in inches a second time.

Better yet, you can use our free BMI index calculator provided on this website.

Most Americans are Overweight

Adapted from: Losing Weight: Start By Counting Calories


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