Controversial and somewhat counterintuitive evidence that BMI-based obesity may be protective against all cause mortality has prompted experts to call for urgent changes to the way obesity is measured. While obesity has been clearly shown to predispose to diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnoea, cancer and other diseases, recent studies have suggested that BMI obesity protects against death from all causes, as well as death due to chronic diseases suchas diabetes, heart failure, and stroke – the so-called “obesity-mortality” paradox

Studies have further shown that some people with obese BMI have an improved metabolic profile and reduced cardiovascular risk. In a new perspective article in the journal"Science, Drs Rexford Ahima and Mitchell Lazar from the Institute of Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania, have called for more accurate, practical and affordable tools to measure fat and skeletal muscle, and biomarkers that can better predict the risks of diseases and mortality.

“Advances to improve the measurement of obesity and related factors will help determine the optimal weight for an individual, taking into account factors such as age, sex, genetics, fitness and pre-existing diseases, as well novel blood markers and metabolic parameters altered by obesity.” said Dr. Ahima.

“Future research should be focused more on molecular pathways, especially how metabolic factors altered by obesity change the development of diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and other ailments, and in!uence the health status and mortality,” noted Dr. Lazar. 

REFERENCE Ahima R S, Lazar M A. Science August 2013: 856-858