Ohio logoBody mass index (BMI) is a numerical measure comparing a person’s weight and height. This helps identify if an individual is underweight, overweight or obese. Recently the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute carried out a research to figure out the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and illness.

It appeared that a BMI of 30 or above reveals signs of obesity as per the federal health standards. This refuses to interpret into current illness among adults under age 40. Furthermore, very little dissimilarities of the current health status in normal-weight vs. overweight people were registered in all age groups studied, from 25 to 70 years, based on the medications they took.

Brant Jarrett, lead author of the research and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University quoted, “A lot of people make a big deal about those overweight BMIs, but we didn’t see a difference between overweight and normal-weight adults across all age groups in the percentage of people medicated, or in the number of medications taken.”

While a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered as normal weight and a BMI between 25 and 29.9 signifies the overweight range, a BMI of 30 or higher reveals obesity. The researchers explain that those young adults who have extra weight might show health issues when they grow older with a BMI of 30 or higher. People aged 40 or older were considerably dependent on medications, than obese adults when compared to adults with a normal weight.

Jarrett enlightened, “For college-age adults, this should help them realize that they don’t have to worry so much if they have a BMI of 27 or 28. Some young people with these BMIs feel like, ‘I’m going to have all these problems, I need to try 50 different diets.’ And what is all that stress and dieting doing to your body? Probably more damage than the extra 15 pounds is.”

Irrespective of the age factor, people with a BMI in the overweight range supposedly do not share an elevated risk to the present day health issues, as compared to people of normal weight. Although the research doesn’t reveal the reason, it claims that more women are dependent on medications than men. But this gender difference is not faced by adults aged 55 and older. The lead researchers highlighted that most college students are stressed of being overweight.

People with BMIs in the overweight or obese range display an elevated risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease than individuals in a normal weight range. The investigators examined the data collected by National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey U.S., dated 1988-94, 2003-04 and 2005-06. A total number of 8,880 men and 9,071 women were categorized into three groups based on their age group. While individuals aged 25 to 39 years formed the first group and those aged 40 to 54 years were the second group, adults aged 55 to 70 comprised the third group. Information on their BMI, age, gender and current medication use was collected. It should be noted that all adults with a BMI below 19.5 were not included.

They gathered information on several drugs available in the market, especially the ones which were recommended to treat mental health disorders and other conditions that were not linked to any physical illness. By understanding the use of medicines that were prescribed to these populations the researchers determined the level of illness faced by them. It then appeared that the percentage of adults consuming medications elevated across the board, BMI levels from 1988-94 to 2003-06 in the United States. This strengthens the need for public health concerns, as it highlights a rise in obesity. During this period people aged 40 to 70 also revealed an increase in the percentage of taking medications and the number of medications taken. It should be noted that a similar rise was not claimed by the younger age group.

After the researchers applied various statistical tests to the data, they declared that among all age groups except a few exceptions between those with normal weight and overweight BMIs, no significant difference in the severity of illness appeared. However, slight elevations in the percentage of medication use among men aged 40 to 70 with overweight BMIs emerged, when compared to men of normal weight. This proves that people with a BMI in the overweight range need not be associated with an increased medication load.

It was also ascertained that in younger people a higher BMI didn’t have an enormous impact on medication, when compared to the two older age groups. The researchers registered an evaluation of health risk due to the onset of a high BMI, especially in young people. The investigators highlighted that young adults pressing on an accurate BMI are likely to face psychological issues. They also confirmed that they may not experience any health problems related to their weight.

BMI is considered to be a convenient means as it is not concerned with different body types or gender differences. In fact a method to measure body fat percentage would be more convincing, as it would present a clearer picture of risks linked with an individual’s weight. Among obese adults aged 40 to 70 a significant increase in medication use was registered. Almost 70 percent of obese women aged 40 to 54 were under medications in the later time frame as compared to about 57 percent of women with a normal weight. Among men of the same age in the same time frame the intake of medication was 61 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

Though none of the scientists can find a strong reason, there appeared always more number of women taking medication than men. If we take into account the increase in medication use among older adults in the more recent group of 2003-2006, a trend in an increase in illness associated with the overall increase in BMI over time appears. But it could also be that people approach such physicians whose treatments accompany advances in technology.

The research was published in the International Journal of Obesity.