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UCSB research shows BMI health doesn't always mean actual health

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Sonia Fernandez, UCSB
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New research out of UC Santa Barbara shows the Body Mass Index (BMI), which essentially scales a person's weight against their height, is bad at categorizing health. 

Jeffrey Hunger is a UCSB doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and took a look at how individuals' health indicators, including blood pressure and diabetes risk, relate to the BMI.

"The BMI is pretty bad at categorizing individual level health," said Hunger. "For individuals who are overweight or obese, based on their BMI, about 54 million...American adults...are misclassified as unhealthy when they are perfectly healthy based on these underlying factors."

He said more than 20 million Americans considered in good health by the BMI are actually unhealthy when looking at the other clinical factors.

Hunger said he hopes those designing health policies look beyond the Body Mass Index to determine whether a person is healthy.

"I think that the general public really should try to focus on improving health behaviors that we know are important. So that's eating well, staying active, and getting enough sleep," he said. "Honestly, just forget about the number on the scale."

These findings were recently published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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