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Body image is stronger predictor of health than obesity, says Mailman School of PH study
Date:2/12/2008

February 12, 2008 -- In a study to examine the impact of desired body weight on the number of unhealthy days subjects report over one month, researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that the desire to weigh less was a more accurate predictor of physically and mentally unhealthy days, than body mass index (BMI). In addition, the desire to lose weight was more predictive of unhealthy days among Whites than among African-Americans or Hispanics, and among women than among men. The paper, I Think Therefore I Am: Perceived Ideal Weight as a Determinant of Health, will be published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

After controlling for actual BMI and age, the researchers found that men who wished to lose 1 percent, 10 percent, and 20 percent of their body weight, respectively, reported 0.1, 0.9 and 2.7 more unhealthy days per month than those who were happy with their weight. Among women, the corresponding increase in numbers of reported unhealthy days was 0.1, 1.6 and 4.3. Persons who were happy with their weight experienced fewer physically unhealthy days (3.0 vs 3.7) and mentally unhealthy days (2.6 vs 3.6) compared with persons unhappy with their weight.

Our data suggest that some of the obesity epidemic may be partially attributable to social constructs that surround ideal body types, said Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, Mailman School of Public Health assistant professor of Health Policy and Management. Younger persons, Whites, and women are disproportionately affected by negative body image concerns, and these groups unduly suffer from BMI-associated morbidity and mortality.

Approximately 66% of the more than 150,000 U.S. adults studied wanted to lose weight, and about 26% were satisfied with their current weight. With respect to BMI, 41% of normal weight people, 20% of overweight people, and 5% of obese people were happy with their weight. Older persons were also more likely to f
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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