Why being considered 'overfat' isn't what it sounds like

Jan 5, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. ET
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Many health care researchers and professionals have tried to draw a correlation between weight and an individual’s health; though others, such as practitioners within the Health at Every Size movement, would argue against looking at weight or body fat as a sole barometer of health. This context is important when considering a new article put forth by researchers working with MAFF Fitness Pty Ltd, a private health and fitness company in Australia, and the Auckland University of Technology.

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The article, which will be published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, establishes the concept of “overfat,” which is, in essence, when a person’s level of “excess body fat” impairs their health.

According to one of the study researchers, Dr. Philip Maffetone, the CEO of MAFF Fitness Pty Ltd: “The overfat category includes normal-weight people with increased risk factors for chronic disease, such as high abdominal fat, and those with characteristics of a condition called normal-weight metabolic obesity.”

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Though BMI has often, if controversially, been seen as a core metric of overall wellness, it is not, in fact, a direct measurement of body fat. So, according to this study, waist circumference might actually be more suitable measurements of metabolic health than the old standby of stepping on the scale.

The research team’s findings indicate that up to 76 percent of the world’s population — or an estimated 5.5 billion people — could be “overfat.”

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The team suggests that while many people who would be considered overweight or obese would fall within this category, even folks who could be considered normal might also suffer from what Maffetone calls, “the overfat pandemic.”

Maffetone and co. say that they believe that 9 to 10 percent of the world’s population could be considered “underfat,” leaving only 14 percent of the world with what could be deemed a healthy body fat quotient.

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