Scientists call for public health action as they highlight the dangers of the so-called overfat pandemic that is currently sweeping the United States.
Obesity and excessive weight are public health concerns; over 70 percent of U.S. adults are either obese or overweight. But being overweight or obese is not the only thing that we should be worried about, new research warns.
The “overfat pandemic” is a public health crisis in the U.S. and around the world, write researchers Philip Maffetone, Ivan Rivera-Dominguez, and Paul B. Laursen, in a study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
Paul B. Laursen is the corresponding author of the study and a professor at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.
As the researchers explain, the term overfat describes excessive body fat that builds up in certain parts of the body, and it can affect even individuals who are of normal weight. Such a buildup of fat can still pose serious threats to one’s health.
Being overfat may raise the risk of cardiometabolic disorders, which can, in turn, lead to a range of chronic diseases and possibly premature death.
The same researchers previously coined the term in a study in which they reported that between 62 and 76 percent of the global population are likely to have this health problem.
Their new study – which consists of a review of existing research – zooms in on 30 of the world’s most developed countries, as classified by the Human Development Index.
As the authors have pointed out in their previous research, being overfat is directly associated with conditions including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.
In their new study, they warn that the prevalence of overfat adults and children in developed countries is “extremely high.”
Specifically, in countries such as Greece, Iceland, New Zealand, and the U.S., over 90 percent of adult men and up to half of children were found to be overfat.
As the scientists note, relying on traditional body mass index (BMI) measurements to determine whether someone is overweight or obese may ignore many people who have excessive body fat that puts them at risk of various health conditions.
So-called metabolically obese normal weight individuals may still have impaired health, and up to 50 percent of these individuals may be ignored by current BMI measurements.
Abdominal fat is the most damaging form of excessive fat buildup, the authors caution. In fact, they point out that most of the growth in the number of overfat people across the globe is due to the increase found in waist circumference.
A high waist circumference usually indicates overfat around the belly, and a recent increase in this belly overfat has been noticed in both adults and children.
Because conventional ways of measuring one’s weight cannot be used to determine if someone is overfat, the researchers advise the population to measure their waistline instead, and compare it with their height.
The authors advise that, by and large, if a person’s waistline is more than half of their height, they may be overfat.
Because of traditional BMI measurements, it may misleadingly appear that obesity and overweight rates have flatlined in recent years, at least in countries such as the United Kingdom or the U.S. However, rates of abdominal obesity have been on the rise.
“Regardless of BMI values, overfat individuals have excess body fat, a high degree of cardiometabolic dysregulation that can promote disease risk factors and chronic disease, increased morbidity and mortality, reduced quality of life, and pose a rising economic burden,” the authors conclude.
“As an unfulfilled public health action, it is crucial to clinically identify individuals who are overfat in order to implement successful treatment and prevention strategies.”