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HOW WEIGHT STANDARDS ARE DETERMINED

Traditionally, normal or ideal weight has been determined by weight and height charts first compiled by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MLI) fifty years ago.a From these charts individuals were determined to either be overweight, obese (when weight is 20 percent or more above what is considered normal), or morbidly obese (when excessive weight inter­feres with normal activity and/or breathing). As obesity is more concerned with excessive fat, rather than excessive weight, there is some question among doctors now whether these standards are accurate.

Critics point out that when MLI first collected statistics for their charts, they used insurance clients as subjects for their information. Mortality rate, not health, was used to determine normal weight. Not only was this method flawed, but the population they used was not a representa­tive sample. MLI charts also assume that being overweight means a person is overfat. There- _ fore, a- muscular individual, who does not need to lose weight, may be considered obese on paper. Many experts now prefer using the body mass index (BM1). This type of system uses body fat, not body weight, as a guide.

Although there is no simple and precise means of assessing body composition, measur­ing a person’s folds of fat or using charts such as the BMI, that more accurately correlate body fat and weight, are becoming common stan­dards of weight measurement in doctor’s offices. Despite this, most dieters still rely on old fashioned height-weight charts because they are easy to use.

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