February 20, 2013
By David Blyweiss, M.D.
In This Issue:
- Why the Body Mass Index is worthless
- 4 “skinny” super-shockers that can steal your life
- Slash this hidden fat-trigger
In the past, one of the best general measures of fitness has been the Body Mass Index (BMI.) This is a basic measurement that says whether or not you are in the correct weight range for your height.
People who fall in the normal range with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 have always been able feel they are in pretty good health. Only people with a BMI greater than 25 are considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more means you are obese.
But it turns out this measure of health may be worthless.
While BMI it can be a rough gauge of health, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t tell you how much of the weight you’re carrying is fat… and how much is muscle. And that can be a real problem for some people.
That’s because there is a modern form of obesity that’s reaching epidemic proportions these days. It’s called “normal weight obesity” or “skinny fat.” And BMI does nothing to tell you if you fall into this category.
Skinny fat is characterized by normal body weight combined with a large percentage of body fat. Most of that excess fat is found in the belly or abdomen. And new research is showing us this belly fat is extremely dangerous to your health. It can even be deadly.
The best way to find out if you’re “skinny fat” is to measure your waist-to-hip ratio, or WHR. And it’s super easy to do.
Just take a tape measure and wrap it around your waist at the narrowest point (between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your belly button.) Record the circumference in inches.
Then measure your hips at the widest point. This is where you’re buttocks are at the largest. Record that number. Then divide your waist measurement by the hip measurement.
For example if your waist is 36″ and your hips are 38″ you would simply perform this calculation: 36 38 = .94
Here’s how to read your results:
Health Risk Based Solely on WHR
|0.95 or below||0.80 or below||Low Risk|
|0.96 to 1.0||0.81 to 0.85||Moderate Risk|
If you’re in the high to moderate risk category, here are 4 “super shockers” you urgently need to know about…
Past research has repeatedly linked body mass index, belly fat and obesity with diabetes, heart disease and an increased risk of death. But only recently has the same link been connected to skinny fat. And even more so than any other factor.
So let’s take a look at what some of this new research is showing. But I warn you. It’s not pretty, and I’m not going to sugar-coat it.
If you’re a skinny diabetic brace yourself, because you’re first on the list…
Super Shocker #1: “Skinny” diabetics have higher death rates than people who are overweight or obese. And your waist-to-hip ratio may be the key factor. Turns out it’s the best predictor of cardiovascular risk and death. The second best predictor is waist circumference itself. BMI has no added risk.
Super Shocker #2: What happens if you have normal weight obesity and aren’t diabetic? Analysis shows just a 1 cm. increase in waist circumference can increase the risk of a cardiac event by 2%. And a 0.01 increase in the waist to hip ratio increased the risk by 5%. (In other words, if your WHR starts out at .94 and then goes up to .95, that .01 addition can increase your risk by 5%.)
Super Shocker #3: As if that’s not bad enough, increased WHR is also independently linked to sudden cardiac death. That’s after adjusting for like diabetes, high blood pressure and poor cholesterol. Waist circumference and BMI do not have the same independent link.
Super Shocker #4: Further research presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting last year had even more disturbing results. They discovered people with a normal body mass index, but a high WHR had the highest death risk from all causes.
When compared to people with normal BMI and WHR, the risk of cardiovascular death was 2.75 times higher in skinny fat people. And the risk of death from all causes was 2.08 times higher.
So if you’re think and have been walking around thinking you’re safe because your BMI falls within a normal range, you might need to rethink your health. If you’ve got a high WHR, you may even be at higher risk of death and disease than your overweight counterparts.
It’s time to nip this unexpected obesity threat in the bud and reclaim your true health, right now…
There are several things you can do to reduce stubborn belly fat and reduce the circumference of your waist. And many of them link back to something I call the cortisol connection.
You see, high levels of the hormone cortisol are found in people with high WHR and waist circumference. And research now shows higher levels of cortisol are associated with abdominal obesity.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s released in response to stressful situations. Once the stressor has passed, your cortisol levels return to normal. But if you’re always feeling tense, stressed and on edge, your body will continually release cortisol and other stress hormones.
And guess what? That constant release of cortisol increases blood sugar. At the same time it counteracts insulin. This causes carbohydrate cravings… right along with an unhealthy build up of fat in the abdomen.
The best way to reduce cortisol levels is to make the time and effort to manage your stress. Even simple things like yoga, meditation, massage and taking a few minutes for yourself each day help. And getting a good night’s sleep is essential. A good B-complex formula can help, too. Look for one that has at least 100 mg of B3 and B6, along with 300 mcg of B12.
You should also get plenty of exercise. It might surprise you to learn your body produces cortisol when you exercise. However, those levels return to normal shortly after your workout. And when you exercise regularly it will actually end up decreasing your normal cortisol levels. It’s also a great stress-reliever, muscle builder and fat-burner.
Here’s the thing though. Cardio exercises alone tend to cause you to burn muscle and store fat.
Now I’m not saying you should stop your cardio exercises. You need them to protect the health of your heart, lungs and other organs. But it’s important to add strength or resistance training to your exercise program. This will help you preserve muscle while reducing fat. Click here for a simple, 30-minute workout to get you started.
Last but not least is choosing foods that lower cortisol levels. It won’t shock you to learn they are the same, healthy foods that support weight loss and a healthy body. And it’s really quite simple.
As always, stay away from processed foods, refined sugar and trans fats. You can find my recommendations in my Modified Mediterranean Diet. Choose low glycemic carbohydrates and stick with healthy fats like avocadoes, nuts, seeds and omega-3 rich fish.
And don’t forget to follow mom’s advice; make sure you eat plenty of fresh, wholesome fruits and vegetables.
Carnethon MR, De Chavez PJ, Biggs ML, et al. Association of weight status with mortality in adults with incident diabetes. JAMA. 2012 Aug 8;308(6):581-90.
Czernichow S, Kengne AP, Huxley RR, et al. Comparison of waist-to-hip ratio and other obesity indices as predictors of cardiovascular disease risk in people with type-2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study from ADVANCE. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2011 Apr;18(2):312-9.
de Koning L, Merchant AT, Pogue J, Anand SS. Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio as predictors of cardiovascular events: meta-regression analysis of prospective studies. Eur Heart J. 2007 Apr;28(7):850-6. Epub 2007 Apr 2.
Adabag S, Lopez F, Alonso A, et al. Risk of sudden cardiac death in obese individuals: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Heart Rhythm Society 2012 Scientific Sessions; May 9, 2012; Boston, MA.
Normal weight individuals with belly fat at highest CVD risk. Press Release. European Society of Cardiology. Aug. 2012.
European Society of Endocrinology (2011, May 3). New method to measure cortisol could lead to better understanding of development of common diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 24, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/05/110502183715.htm