- Researchers from UCLA have concluded about 54 million Americans classified as overweight or obese based on their Body Mass Index (BMI) are actually healthy.
- The team used data from the 2005-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to look at whether BMI was correlated to true health markers such as blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, glucose, insulin resistance, and C-reactive protein data.
- Additionally, they report, according to those metabolic measures, 47% of overweight people and 29% of obese people were healthy while 30% of “normal” weight people were unhealthy.
The findings could have huge implications for the use of BMI as a health measurement in predicting individuals' healthcare costs and employer programs that use BMI as a factor in what they charge enrollees for healthcare.
The authors note this is a timely finding because the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently proposed rules that would let employers penalize their staff for as much as 30% of their health insurance costs if they don’t satisfy 24 health criteria, including meeting an approved BMI.
Lead study author A. Janet Tomiyama argues BMI is a crude and innacurate way to gauge health and that doing so will inappropriately penalize healthy people.
The study finds in total, almost 75 million U.S. adults are being misclassified as healthy or unhealthy based on BMI.
"Employers, policy makers and insurance companies should focus on actual health markers," they say.