Obesity: Let’s Redefine This Concept

The Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA) has called for the definition and management of “obesity” to be revisited. Dr Gerda Joubert, BASA president, believes the current reliance on body mass index (BMI) as a measure to determine overweight and obesity is too narrow to accurately determine whether someone is really is at risk of developing obesity- related health complications. These include conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, insulin resistance, Type-2 diabetes, stroke, gall bladder diseases, and several types of cancers, depression or even lower-back pain. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height. A result of over 25 is considered “overweight”, and over 30 is classified as “obese”. However, Joubert believes this definition is too broad and fails to take into account other important factors.

What does it really mean to suffer from obesity?

“What many people may not know is that it is quite possible for two individuals of exactly the same height and weight – and thus having the same BMI – to be at totally different levels of risk for developing obesity-related health conditions,” she says. (See example below.) “Missing factors in the ‘obese’ equation are the person’s body fat percentage and waist circumference – and that needs to be measured by a trained medical professional such as a biokineticist.

“Biokineticists are trained to conduct anthropometric measurements – systematic measurements of the size, shape and composition of the human body, including total body fat percentage,” Joubert explains. “Once you know what your body fat percentage is, a biokineticist will prescribe an exercise or movement program that is designed to reduce your body fat percentage, while taking account of your state of health.”

However, dealing with overweight and obesity effectively requires a multidisciplinary approach. The exercise programme prescribed by the biokineticist has to be combined with an appropriate individualized eating program, which should be formulated by a registered dietician. Joubert also advises anyone wanting to reduce their body fat percentage to be checked by a GP, physician or health nurse for any obesity-related risk factors, such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose. Should any of those risk factors be found to be present, they will be taken into account by the biokineticist and dietician when formulating appropriate exercise and eating programs. Click here for the study by Harvard Medical School on the link between obesity and cancer. obesity | Longevity LIVE

BMI Vs Body Fat measurement

  • Two women are both 1,62m tall.
  • Both weigh 63,5kg.
  • Both have an ideal BMI of 24.

1. The first woman doesn’t exercise and eats a lot of junk food. She keeps her weight down by controlling her junk- food portion sizes. A body fat test reveals that she has 19kg of fat and 44,5kg of lean mass. That gives her a body fat percentage of 30 – just shy of the “obese” range.

2. The other woman does weight-training workouts and cardio exercise three times a week. She eats a healthy diet. Her body fat test reveals she has 12,7kg of fat and 50,8kg of lean mass, giving her a body fat percentage of 20 – hovering between the coveted “athlete” and “fat” range.

What does this mean?

With these results, it is not surprising that the women’s body shapes are very different – as is their risk of developing obesity-related disorders.

“There are no quick- x solutions to beating obesity and obtaining the right body fat percentage. However, adopting scientifically based programs will enable you to achieve your goal safely and in a way that is more likely to have the best long-term results,” Joubert says.

Click here to discover the link between obesity and infertility.