You May Not be Overweight or Obese, but Are You Overfat?

BMI, Body Mass Index

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

We sometimes feel pressured to lose weight, so we can look a certain way. But my opinion is that we need to focus less on losing weight and more on losing fat!  

Even if we are at a healthy weight, a high body fat percentage puts us at risk for some very serious health conditions. And what’s even more disturbing is some people may have dangerous levels of excess fat and not even know it. That is why it is so important to measure our body fat when we assess our overall health.   

You may be familiar with your body mass index (BMI). This is sometimes used to determine how healthy you are and is based on your weight and height. A BMI between 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, 30 or above is considered obese and a healthy BMI falls within the range of 18.5 to 24.9.

If you know your height and weight, you can easily calculate your BMI by clicking here. Unfortunately, your BMI may not be an accurate measurement of whether you are at a healthy weight.

According to a new study, published by the medical journal Frontiers in Public Health, a person can have a healthy BMI but still be “overfat.”

What is overfat?

“The term overfat refers to the presence of excess body fat that can impair health, even for normal weight non-obese individuals,” the study reports. “Indeed, reliance of body mass index (BMI) for determination of being overweight and obese may misclassify up to 50% or more of patients with excess body fat who may have increased health risks.”

What’s very concerning is the study says even though the appearance of being overweight and/or obese in some developed countries has been on the decline, people being overfat is on the rise.

“In the US, New Zealand, Greece, and Iceland, prevalence of the overfat condition is at an alarmingly high rate of over 90% in adult males and up to 50% in children,” according to the study.

The researchers refer to this issue as “normal weight obesity (NWO)” or “metabolically obese normal weight (MONW).” They found that many people at risk were in the BMI range of 23 to 25 or lower, which is considered a normal weight.

Having excess fat increases the risk of developing some of the most threatening and life-altering diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more.

In addition to considering how much fat you have, you also need to take note of where your fat is concentrated.

Belly fat (visceral fat) grows deep inside the stomach and may wrap around your vital organs. It may increase your risk of developing diabetes and fatty liver disease.  

“The recognition that abdominal overfat has separate and more severe health effects is not new. Prospective epidemiological studies have demonstrated the power of abdominal overfat to predict premature death in conjunction with various cardiometabolic-related chronic diseases in both men and women,” researchers of the study said. “In recent decades, the prevalence of childhood abdominal overfat has increased more quickly than the prevalence of obesity as defined by BMI.”

So how can we be proactive?

  • Measure your waist circumference. This is something you can do right now and make immediate lifestyle changes if you need to. “If your waist circumference is half your height or less, you are at a healthy fat level. If you are over that number, your fat could put you at risk for ill health,” the study says. You can also easily look at your hip to waist ratio. If your waist is bigger than your hips, this is an indication you may have dangerous fat levels.
  • In addition to measuring your BMI, get a more comprehensive body composition test that measures intra-abdominal fat and more.
  • Exercise and diet are, of course, are key. There is a science to healthy eating, and it is very important to make sure your body gets its daily requirement of essential nutrients. There are even some minerals that may help with weight management.

Some of these minerals include:

  • Magnesium. Studies with rats have shown us that a low magnesium level can slow down growth of lean body mass (muscle and bone building) and promote an increase in body fat. Foods containing magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate and bananas.
  • Phosphorus. In a study of almost 40,000 women in Korea, phosphorus deficiency correlated with weight gain from oral contraceptives. Even more exciting is a study from Lebanon showing that phosphorus supplements in a small group (63 people) for 12 weeks significantly decreased body weight, BMI, waist circumference and subjective appetite scores. Dietary sources of phosphorus include salmon, halibut, yogurt, milk, turkey, chicken, beef, lentils, almonds, peanuts, eggs and bread.
  • Iron. There’s a lot of research on the link between obesity and iron deficiency. Basically, excess weight seems related to iron deficiency. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study involving obese and non-obese women who ate a meal “rigged” to test their iron absorption. In overweight and obese women, iron absorption was two-thirds than in normal-weight women. Iron-rich foods include red meat, pork, poultry, seafoods, beans, spinach (and other leafy greens), peas, cherimoyas and iron-fortified cereals.
  • Zinc.A compelling amount of evidence suggests that zinc helps to block the bad effects of obesity in the body. This may be due to zinc’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Eat lamb, pumpkin seeds, grass fed beef, mushrooms, chickpeas, spinach and chicken to get more zinc in your daily diet.

You really cannot judge a book by the cover, especially when it comes to your health. You may feel good and look good, but this does not guarantee you are at your healthiest state.

Make being proactive about your health a daily requirement. Do not wait for symptoms to appear or your doctor’s diagnosis.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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