Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is Bush Fat?

This story, from ABC News, cracks me up:

Aug. 7, 2006 — Last week President Bush underwent his annual physical. It revealed he was in pretty good health, except for one thing. According to his body mass index, he's overweight.
His BMI was 26, putting him in the lower range of the overweight category.

He weighs 196 pounds, meaning he has gained 5 pounds since last year and his percentage of body fat has increased to 16.8 percent, which is, overall, pretty good for a man who just turned 60. (To calculate your BMI, go here).

Still, the appropriate body weight range is 157 to 192 pounds for a 5-foot, 11-inch man. Is there cause for alarm? Should the president go on a diet?

Possibly, dietitians say.

"When you're 60 and your BMI is 26, it's a risk," says dietitian Cathy Nonas, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "As you get older, you are more prone to other ailments — diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. It is helpful to not add another BMI point each year."

The notion that everyone gains weight as they age is not an excuse, say health care professionals.

"I don't know if I would say he's overweight, but if you look at the trend, increasing body weight is not a good pattern," says Leslie Bonci, director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "This weight gain trend is important as we get older."

While some experts have voiced concern over the president's weight, others say he has nothing to worry about. And one leading nutrition researcher believes BMI alone does not provide enough information to make a decision.

"In men, BMI is particularly misleading because of muscle mass. I would like to know the president's waist circumference. It appears the president is pretty healthy. However, if he's beginning a trend of gaining 5 pounds a year, that is not a good thing," says Barbara Rolls, head of nutritional sciences at Penn State University.

And J. Larry Durstine, president of the American College of Sports Medicine, says he believes the president should be recognized as a leader in maintaining good health.

"If 60 percent of Americans had a BMI of 26 or less, we would have a healthier population," he says.

So why is Bush technically overweight?

Body mass index is the ratio of a person's weight to height and is meant to indicate how likely someone will develop an illness, such as heart disease, because of his or her weight. A BMI of less than 25 has a low risk. A BMI between 26 and 29.99 is considered overweight and anything higher than 30 is obese and poses a high risk. An individual with a BMI under 19 may be at risk for osteoporosis and, potentially, malnutrition.

However, there is controversy with using this formula, as it may overestimate risk or inaccurately put someone in an overweight or obese category, especially men.

Although there are more precise ways of determining a person's percentage of body fat, BMI is perhaps the easiest and quickest measurement for the general population. Still, a BMI should always be taken into account with other measurements and tests, experts say.

"BMI cutoffs are not absolute about health risks," says Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

In addition, "BMI is one thing in a constellation of risk factors that should be considered for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome," says Barry A. Franklin, director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Laboratories at William Beaumont Hospital. "I would not be upset by a BMI of 26 and would consider other factors to gauge global health, including fitness, blood pressure, lipids. In this case, the president's values are all stellar."

Bush is not the only one to have a BMI that seems incorrect or perhaps a bit unfair. In his prime, as Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenneger's BMI was 33.

The reason this cracks me up is because it is a perfect example of a science writer writing about a subject he doesn't understand in the least being led astray by experts who are narrowly focused on their fields of study.

Notice the article says a BMI is the ratio of a person's height to weight. Two paragraphs later, the writer says BMI is "perharps the easiest and quickest way" to determine if a person is overweight.

This is not at all true.

Here's the one very important factor which is not discussed in the article at all: Muscle.

Muscle weighs more than fat. And, muscle does not drag on the heart the way fat does. When a person exercises regularly, they build muscle. When they build muscle their whole body builds itself to accomodate that muscle, including one particular muscle called the heart.

On the other hand, when a person adds fat to their body, they do so through overeating. In other words, the body has added weight, but has done so without exercise, meaning they have done nothing to accomodate the added weight. Thus, the added weight is basically dead weight dragging on the person's heart.

Note the article does say that George Bush's body fat percentage is 16.8%. I love how they say that is "overall pretty good for a man who has just turned 60."

Why don't we look at some photos of what men look like at different body fat percentages. All these men are 5'10" tall.

This man weighs 245 pounds and has a body fat percentage in excess of 30%. Yes, that's right, 30% of his body is just fat, which is really not "body" at all, in that it doesn't perform any function except to keep him warm and wheezing.

This man weighs 210 pounds and has a body fat percentage of approximately 14-16%. Now, there are variations in body type which would effect the way one would look, but remember, George Bush is one inch taller than this man, and weighs 14 pounds less. And, George Bush is sixty, whereas this man is probably about 40.

Ok, now, here's an athlete in prime condition. This man weighs 188 pounds and has a body fat percentage of 10%. Also, note the large endowment. That is another, less-discussed, advantage to working out.

Ok, I'm just kidding about that.

But seriously folks, considering George Bush is taller than the guy in the middle, and yet weighs less, it is likely that he looks like something in between that guy and the athlete shown here.

George Bush is a stud. Laura probably can't keep her hands off him. I'm guessing, those two are rockin' the White House.

Anyway, here's another thing which is not discussed. Muscle burns more energy than fat. When a person adds muscle to their body, their metabolism increases. Metabolism is the amount of calories one's body burns per hour.

So, there you go, the greatest benefit to working out is, the more you work out, the more you can eat.