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Fat may not always be unhealthy, experts say

Thursday May 28, 11:04 pm Eastern Time

WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) - Fat may not always be an automatic indicator that someone is unhealthy, researchers said on Thursday.

They said more careful measurements can show someone's precise health risks and might be a better way of measuring obesity.

The most common measurement of obesity right now is body mass index, or BMI. This is calculated by dividing someone's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared.

So for example someone who is five feet, five inches tall, or 1.65 meters, and weighs 132 pounds or 60 kg, has a BMI of 22. A BMI of 25 or above is considered overweight and one of 30 or above is obese.

The measurement is supposed to allow for different body builds, but it does not account for the risk factors that go along with being fat, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.

Arthur Campfield, Francoise Smith and Paul Burn at drugmaker Hoffman-La Roche (ROCZg.S) said some obese people may not be unhealthy at all.

Writing in the journal Science, they said a new measure, called metabolic fitness, looks at the specific health risk factors such as cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose and insulin levels in the blood, blood pressure and the way the body handles glucose.

Weight loss is not always necessary to improve health, they said. ``For example, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels can be improved by physical activity in the absence of weight loss,'' they wrote.

``The hope is that by using metabolic fitness as a measure of success, health professionals can shift the patient's focus from unrealistic, culturally imposed goals (for example, dress size or belt size) to the more appropriate and achievable goal of better health.''