New, Shocking Study Finds Humans Are Not Standardized!

Folks here probably know about the BMI– and possibly are familiar with my, ahem, “issues” with it as a tool of diagnosis; anything that bases treatment choices on the assumption that bones, fat and muscle all weigh the same, and people are identically proportioned, is going to get me angry. Add in it being changed in 2000 by over 2kg/m2 (so that “overweight” is 25kg/m2; BMI is weight in kg divided by height in meters, squared) to make it easier to calculate and remove the differences between men and women and…well, I’m getting distracted.

Anyways, the BMI is the basis for the “obesity epidemic” we’ve all heard about, and there are calls for action on the following theory that this generation will die earlier than their parents.

Shockingly, some scientist actually decided to do research to see if being over-weight or obese by this BMI standard resulted in dying earlier. It’s clear that if you’re heavy enough, you do die earlier, but that’s diagnosis by examining actual people, not by applying a broad standardized calculation.  Everyone knows that if you’re over-weight, then you’re going to have more health problems, so you’re going to die earlier.

There’s a problem: they didn’t confirm what “everyone knows.”

The news will seem heaven sent to those contemplating a new year diet, and contradicts the received wisdom that being fat reduces life expectancy. It is the second time that research studies led by Katherine Flegal, a distinguished epidemiologist from the National Centre for Health Statistics at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Maryland, US, have studied the link between obesity and mortality.

In 2007 the same group caused consternation among public health professionals when they published the results of a similar analysis that also showed being fat does not shorten life. Walter Willett, professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, dismissed the finding as “rubbish”.

Dr Flegal told The Independent she had decided to conduct a second, larger, study on the same theme to counter the sceptics. She and her team examined results from 100 studies from around the world, involving three million people and 270,000 deaths.

via Recipe for a long life: overweight people have LOWER death risk – Health News – Health & Families – The Independent.

Who knew that the art of healing people may not work so well when you try to remove individuals and judgement from the mix?


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Former sailor, trained calibration tech, current mother, current geek; has a former sailor current geek computer tech husband, five kids and two spoiled barn cats. Has been "Foxfier" since before Mozilla existed, let alone renamed their browser "Firefox." It's a purposeful misspelling of the photo-luminescent effect-- for something that might look scary but is harmless. That's it.


  1. Got curious how big of a change the standardization was; 5’9 is about 1.75 meters, squared is 3.0625; multiply that by the old male standard of 27.8 kg and you get 85.1375kg, which is 187.7(rounded) pounds, vs the new standard of 168.8(rounded) pounds, so nearly nineteen pounds on a average guy just to make it easier to calculate.

    So even compared to the old BMI, it’s a pretty flipping huge change; no idea how much the known higher mortality of underweight people weighs down the “ideal weight” category.

  2. “New, Shocking Study Finds Humans Are Not Standardized!” says the furry.

    A social study is the elaborate demonstration of the obvious by means that are obscure.
    –William Bennett, former US Secretary of Education

    I suspect the experience of shopping for clothes was the source of Dr. Katherine Flegal’s secret knowledge.

  3. Icon’s a werefox, actually, from an old anime-themed pen and paper RPG.

    Not sure what you’re getting at with clothes shopping– I was thinking more along the lines of folks I actually know who die suddenly. Other than the ones that are immensely huge, it’s mostly the extremely thin weight-freaks. Usually from the same thing: heart attacks.

    I have noticed that current styles, being aimed at builds that are too thin, tend to make those who are healthy look really fat. My little sister, for example, thinks that she’s fat– after all, her BMI says she’s over weight and look how horrible the stick-fashions look on her!– even though she’s not. She’s simply an adult female. I know women whose body fat is so low that they have, ahem, lady problems– and they still think they’re fat, because their BMI says so, and they’ve got “muffin tops” when they wear hip-huggers. (Navy offered a lot of chance to get way, way more information from casual acquaintanceship than you’d think, and I seem to have a giant sign that says “please, talk to me, I’ll listen.”)

  4. BMI is the most worthless piece of information you can have. It can’t measure body composition, which is far more important than a simple weight/height ratio. Particularly because fat is not as dense as muscle, a leaner person may actually weigh more than someone who is “lean” challenged, thus having a higher BMI although actually in better physical shape.

  5. My uncles all had so little body fat, and such solid bone structures (yay, Irish! Watching the Hobbit felt like a family reunion with bigger beards.) that they actually failed the “dead man’s float” in boot camp.

    They would’ve all failed a BMI test as well.

    I can see it as a sort of thing to trigger a doctor checking to see if you’re fat– kind of like how my OBGYN asks if I’m having trouble breathing, and when I say “yes” we check the times and verify it’s because the kid is pushing and I’m carrying two toddlers, not because of something or other that can also strike pregnant women.

    Instead, they’re going the route of salt with heart disease, and putting everyone on a treatment path that will only help a few folks, and can seriously hurt others. (My dad was nearly killed by the anti-salt bias; thank God he happened to not be driving heavy machinery when heat stroke/lack of electrolytes hit him.)

  6. I have come to hate the BMI. I come from a family of nearly 6-foot women who don’t get above 120 pounds until middle age and many children. I am having extereme trouble getting insured because of “the magic number.”

  7. As much as I’d love to have that problem, you’ve got my sympathy. (Much like I wish I had my sister in law’s problem that the only weight she gains is in her chest–otherwise, no curves at all.)

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