Maybe Simply Weighing Yourself Is Not Enough!
Sep 4, 2007 by Peter Jameson
A recent research by the 'Medical Research Council' in the "Journal of Clinical Nutrition" claims that middle age spread occurs in two very distinct phases and casts doubt on the value of simply using one's weight as a guide to health.
Although they unsurprisingly found that a thickening waistline in early middle age is accompanied by a rise in weight they also found that waists continue to expand with age and that weight gain leveled off in later years as muscle turned to fat.
These latest findings suggest that simply relying on the 'Body Mass Index' (BMI) to assess whether a person is at his correct weight is somewhat unreliable.
BMI is presently widely used by health workers and is calculated by dividing a person's weight by the square of his height.
Geoff Der, from the MRC's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, said, "As people get older it seems that their bodies change as they lose muscle and get fatter and this explains why middle age spread might not be reflected on the bathroom scales".
He added that BMI was a good measure of lean body tissue but said that an expanding waistline might be a more reliable measure of the amount of fatty tissue that a person has gained. "Although the people in the older middle age group in this study put on less weight than the younger people their waist circumferences continued to grow over time. What appears to have been happening is that the increase in fat was being obscured by a loss of muscle mass".
The researchers carried out a nine year study of 1,044 people aged either 39 or 59 and during the study, the height, waist circumference and weight of each participant were measured in 1991, 1995 and 2000 and the data was used to measure changes in their body mass index over that time and only one in five of the people maintained a stable weight.
In the younger group more than 42% of the study's participants put on 10kg and 17% gained 5kg. On average, both men and women in the younger group gained between 0.5kg and 1kg a year.
However those in the older age group gained the least weight in the second half of the study and although their overall weight didn't change their waist circumferences increased.
Dr Ian Campbell who is a medical director of the charity 'Weight Concern' said: "This study is another sharp reminder that there are more ways of measuring fatness than simple weight. As we get older its common for our lean tissue, muscle, to decrease as we become less active. Although it's common to keep increasing in total weight into our 60s, the full extent of that extra fat mass may well be obscured by muscle loss. A simple waist measurement can be enough to detect just how significant our increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes has become. Everyone should regularly check their waistline, not just take a weekly step onto the bathroom scales. They may be giving false comfort".