A totally arbitrary, pseudo-unit, called the BMI: Body Mass Index, apparently in use from at least the mid-1970's, has been developed in an attempt to quantify obesity. It is an arbitrary measure of dubious validity calculated by dividing your weight by the square of your height and multiplying by a fudge factor to account for English vs. metric inputs.
So, in the metric system, BMI = weight/(height)², with weight in kilograms and height in meters. In the English system, the units of BMI are pounds per square foot, yet this is not a measure of pressure, as pounds per square foot would be in real science.
Worse, other "authorities" use "arm span" instead of height for the linear distance, thus further confusing this meaningless calculation.
There is an interesting BMI calculator that not only gives the BMI, but also compares it to the generally obese public, and reports percentile rank compared to others your own age. E.g. at 5'9" and 125 pounds, my BMI is 18.5, and compared to others of my age (63 in 2003), my weight is in the <2 percentile (meaning that >98% of the people my height are heavier/fatter than I), yet there is some palpable fat around my waist. In the vernacular, my frame/body structure would be called "wiry".
Remember, these BMI values are calculated in reference to the grossly obese, sick, meat-eating public, so vegetarians/vegans would generally be in the more healthful lower percentiles. Raw-fooders, the healthiest of all, would be ranked even lower than cooked vegetarians/vegans.
And now for some research that proves the obvious: meat-eaters are fatter than vegetarians/vegans, something all the obese meatarians on all the diet newsgroups simply do not want to hear, as evidenced to their hostility to such information.
Definitions of various weight classifications by the World Health Organization are:
From the same reference:
"In the most recently published United States data (1999 to 2000), which use the WHO criteria for overweight (BMI >/= 25 kg/m2) and obesity (>/= 30 kg/m2), 67% of men and 62% of women are overweight, and 27.5% of men and 34% of women are obese. [Note: these figures are misleading, perhaps intentionally so, because the obese are counted twice: as obese and again as overweight. Worse, these "definitions" are quite different than the ones listed in the "definition" table above, since in the table overweight is defined as 25 - 29.9, i.e. having an upper cutoff, while the contradictory definition BMI >/= 25 has no upper cutoff, so would include the obese, as well. Thus, with various mathematically-conflicting "definitions" used for overweight and obese, there is no way to comprehend what is being stated. - ljf]
Apparently playing into the current hysteria over genetic research, this article states: "Studies of populations, families, adoptions, and twins have established a strong genetic role in determining body weight.", totally ignoring the facts that populations, families, and twins tend to eat exactly the same cultural diets, and that cultural diets are the fundamental cause for overweight and obesity. When individuals are intelligent and concerned enough with their own health and abandon animal-based cultural diets for plant-based diets, they lose excess bodyweight with no effort, thus negating any claims as genetics being the fundamental cause for excess bodyweight. Strangely, the author states: "Dietary treatment of obesity has long been controversial."; perhaps the loss of income of the medical system by intelligent dietary reform would cause such controversy?
Taking the medical industry's position as: "Caloric restriction and macronutrient changes have resulted in frustration for patients and health care providers alike and have supported a billion-dollar market in diet schemes." apparently ignores the substantial body of medical literature that supports plant-based diets as a simple technique to lose excess weight.
Unfortunately, this article repeats the common myth: "Increasing energy expenditure through exercise has been a mainstay of obesity therapy. ", but I find this to be highly questionable. I personally watched a housemate drop 150 pounds, half his starting weight, in a year and a half by dietary change alone, fruits and vegetables, with no exercise routine.
The article concludes in ignorance: "Optimal therapy for obesity, however, remains elusive."
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Aug;57(8):947-55
Dietary intakes and lifestyle factors of a vegan population in Germany: results from the German Vegan Study.
Waldmann A, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A. 1Institute of Food Science, University of Hanover, Hanover, Germany.
OBJECTIVE:: Evaluation of dietary
intakes and lifestyle factors of German vegans.
Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Jun;27(6):728-34.
Diet and body mass index in 38000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans.
Spencer EA, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
OBJECTIVE: To compare body mass
index (BMI) in four diet groups (meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians
and vegans) in the Oxford cohort of the European Prospective Investigation
into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford) and to investigate lifestyle and
dietary factors associated with any observed differences.
J Am Diet Assoc 2001 Apr;101(4):411-20
Popular diets: correlation to health, nutrition, and obesity.
Kennedy ET, Bowman SA, Spence JT, Freedman M, King J. USDA/ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, USA.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the association
between a range of health and nutrition indicators and popular diets.
Scand J Rheumatol
Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms.
Kaartinen K, Lammi K, Hypen M, Nenonen M, Hanninen O, Rauma AL. Department of Physiology, University of Kuopio, Finland. email@example.com
The effect of a strict, low-salt, uncooked vegan diet rich in lactobacteria on symptoms in 18 fibromyalgia patients during and after a 3-month intervention period in an open, non-randomized controlled study was evaluated. As control 15 patients continued their omnivorous diet. The groups did not differ significantly from each other in the beginning of the study in any other parameters except in pain and urine sodium. The results revealed significant improvements in Visual analogue scale of pain (VAS) (p=0.005), joint stiffness (p=0.001), quality of sleep (p=0.0001), Health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) (p=0.031), General health questionnaire (GHQ) (p=0.021), and a rheumatologist's own questionnaire (p=0.038). The majority of patients were overweight to some extent at the beginning of the study and shifting to a vegan food caused a significant reduction in body mass index (BMI) (p=0.0001). Total serum cholesterol showed a statistically significant lowering (p=0.003). Urine sodium dropped to 1/3 of the beginning values (p=0.0001) indicating good diet compliance. It can be concluded that vegan diet had beneficial effects on fibromyalgia symptoms at least in the short run.
J Nutr 2000 Jun;130(6):1591-6
LDL of Taiwanese vegetarians are less oxidizable than those of omnivores.
Lu SC, Wu WH, Lee CA, Chou HF, Lee HR, Huang PC. Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.
The vegetarians in Taiwan consume diets high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. To investigate whether this dietary pattern results in high susceptibility of LDL to oxidation, 109 long-term (8 +/- 5 y) male and female vegans and lactovegetarians (ages 31-45 y) from Taipei and females from Hualien and matched omnivores were recruited to have 24-h-recall dietary assessments and blood lipid analysis. Body mass index and blood pressure were significantly lower in all vegetarian groups than in the matched omnivore groups (P < 0.05). Vegetarians consumed less energy except in the males and less protein, fat and cholesterol (P < 0.05). The mean polyunsaturated/saturated fatty acid (P/S) ratio of 2.4 in vegetarian diet was about two times that in omnivore diet (P < 0. 001). The concentrations of plasma total- and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) but not HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) were significantly lower (P < 0.001) and resulting HDL-C/LDL-C ratio was 38, 46 and 30% higher (P < 0.01) in Taipei female, male and Hualien female vegetarians, respectively, than in the matched omnivores. Plasma triglyceride concentration was significantly lower only in the Hualien women vegetarians (31%, P < 0.001) than in the matched omnivores. The lag time of conjugated diene formation in LDL oxidized in vitro induced by copper was longer in Taipei female (62%, P < 0.001), male (29%, P < 0.05) and Hualien female (38%, P < 0.01), and the production of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) in LDL after 2-4 h of oxidation was 22-32% less (P < 0.005) in Taipei male and Hualien female vegetarians than the matched omnivores. Lag time of LDL oxidation was negatively related to LDL arachidonic (r = -0.55, P = 0.0003) and eicosapentaenoic (r = -0.47, P = 0.003) acid contents. LDL-TBARS production was negatively related to LDL linoleic acid content (r = -0.36, P = 0.023), but positively related to LDL arachidonic (r = 0.56, P = 0.0002) and eicosapentaenoic (r = 0.45, P = 0.004) acids. No significant differences were found in dietary vitamins C and E intakes and plasma LDL alpha-tocopherol concentrations between vegetarians and omnivores. Our results suggest that vegetarian diets decrease the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation despite their higher dietary P/S ratio.
Am J Clin Nutr 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):586S-593S
Dietary intake and biochemical, hematologic, and immune status of vegans compared with nonvegetarians.
Haddad EH, Berk LS, Kettering JD, Hubbard RW, Peters WR. Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, CA92350, USA. ehaddad@sph.LLU.edu
Dietary and nutritional status of individuals habitually consuming a vegan diet was evaluated by biochemical, hematologic, and immunologic measures in comparison with a nonvegetarian group. On the basis of 4-d dietary records, the intake of female and male vegans tended to be lower in fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and cholesterol and higher in dietary fiber than that of vegetarians. With computed food and supplement intakes, vegan diets provided significantly higher amounts of ascorbate, folate, magnesium, copper, and manganese in both female and male participants. The body mass index (BMI; in kg/m(2)) of the vegans was significantly lower than that of the nonvegetarians and 9 of the 25 vegans had a BMI <19. Serum ferritin concentrations were significantly lower in vegan men but iron and zinc status did not differ between the sexes. Mean serum vitamin B-12 and methylmalonic acid concentrations did not differ; however, 10 of the 25 vegans showed a vitamin B-12 deficit manifested by macrocytosis, circulating vitamin B-12 concentrations <150 pmol/L, or serum methylmalonic acid >376 nmol/L. Vegans had significantly lower leukocyte, lymphocyte, and platelet counts and lower concentrations of complement factor 3 and blood urea nitrogen but higher serum albumin concentrations. Vegans did not differ from nonvegetarians in functional immunocompetence assessed as mitogen stimulation or natural killer cell cytotoxic activity.
Proc Nutr Soc 1999 May;58(2):271-5
Health benefits of a vegetarian diet.
Key TJ, Davey GK, Appleby PN. Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Infirmary, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
Compared with non-vegetarians, Western vegetarians have a lower mean BMI (by about 1 kg/m2), a lower mean plasma total cholesterol concentration (by about 0.5 mmol/l), and a lower mortality from IHD (by about 25%). They may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as constipation, diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis. No differences in mortality from common cancers have been established. There is no evidence of adverse effects on mortality. Much more information is needed, particularly on other causes of death, other morbidity including osteoporosis, and long-term health in vegans. The evidence available suggests that widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet could prevent approximately 40,000 deaths from IHD in Britain each year.
Br J Cancer 1999 Jul;80(9):1470-5
Oestradiol and sex hormone-binding globulin in premenopausal and post-menopausal meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans.
Thomas HV, Davey GK, Key TJ. Imperial Cancer Research Fund Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK.
Endogenous oestradiol is strongly associated with breast cancer risk but its determinants are poorly understood. To test the hypothesis that vegetarians have lower plasma oestradiol and higher sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) than meat-eaters we assayed samples from 640 premenopausal women (153 meat-eaters, 382 vegetarians, 105 vegans) and 457 post-menopausal women (223 meat-eaters, 196 vegetarians, 38 vegans). Vegetarians and vegans had lower mean body mass indices (BMI) and lower plasma cholesterol concentrations than meat-eaters, but there were no statistically significant differences between meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in pre- or post-menopausal plasma concentrations of oestradiol or SHBG. Before adjusting for BMI there were small differences in the direction expected, with the vegetarians and vegans having higher SHBG and lower oestradiol (more noticeable amongst post-menopausal women) than the meat-eaters. These small differences were essentially eliminated by adjusting for BMI. Thus this study implies that the relatively low BMI of vegetarians and vegans does cause small changes in SHBG and in post-menopausal oestradiol, but that the composition of vegetarian diets may not have any additional effects on these hormones.
J Am Coll Nutr 1998 Oct;17(5):425-34
Comment in: J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Oct;17(5):407-8
Cardiovascular disease risk factors are lower in African-American vegans compared to lacto-ovo-vegetarians.
Toohey ML, Harris MA, DeWitt W, Foster G, Schmidt WD, Melby CL. Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins 80523, USA.
OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken
to determine if African-American strict vegetarians (vegans) exhibit lower
blood pressure (BP) and a more favorable serum lipid profile than their
lacto-ovo vegetarian (LOV) counterparts, and if plasma ascorbic acid (AA)
concentrations could explain any group differences in these cardiovascular
disease (CVD) risk factors.
Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1998 May;22(5):454-60
Low body mass index in non-meat eaters: the possible roles of animal fat, dietary fibre and alcohol.
Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJ. Imperial Cancer Research Fund Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the associations
of diet and other lifestyle factors with body mass index (BMI) using data
from the Oxford Vegetarian Study.
Acta Physiol Scand Suppl 1997;640:158-62
Changes in cardiovascular risk factors and hormones during a comprehensive residential three month kriya yoga training and vegetarian nutrition.
Schmidt T, Wijga A, Von Zur Muhlen A, Brabant G, Wagner TO. Department of Epidemiology & Social Medicine, Hannover Medical University, Germany.
In participants of a comprehensive residential three month yoga and mediation training programme living on a low fat lacto-vegetarian diet changes in cardiovascular risk factors and hormones were studied. Substantial risk factor reduction was found. Body mass index, total serum and LDL cholesterol, fibrinogen, and blood pressure were significantly reduced especially in those with elevated levels. Urinary excretion of adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine, aldosterone, as well as serum testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels were reduced, while cortisol excretion increased significantly.
Z Kardiol 1996 Jun;85(6):418-27
[Lactovegetarian diet: effect on changes in body weight, lipid status, fibrinogen and lipoprotein (a) in cardiovascular patients during inpatient rehabilitation treatment]. [Article in German] Brestrich M, Claus J, Blumchen G. Klinik Roderbirken, Klinik fur Herz-Kreislauf-Erkrankungen der LVA, Rheinprovinz, Leichlingen.
In this paper, the shortterm influence of a lactovegetarian diet on selected laboratory parameters and motivation of patients in comparison to a conventional, fat-modified and cholesterol-lowered, omnivorous diet during a clinical rehabilitation treatment should be examined. During an average period of 24.2 days the total cholesterol and the LDL-cholesterol fell for a group of 151 patients who had volunteered to sustain a vegetarian diet for the duration of the clinical rehabilitation, significantly higher by a medium level of 31.1 mg/dl (12.5%) versus 16.9 mg/dl (7%) respectively 27.7 mg/dl (14.5%) versus 11.8 mg/dl (6.5%), as compared to a randomly selected control group of 151 patients. The reductions within the groups were also significant. All of the other laboratory parameters such as lipoprotein (a), fibrinogen, uric acid, triglycerides, and HDL-cholesterol did not exhibit any diet-related changes. The weight of the adipose patients could be reduced very significantly through a reduction diet consisting of lactovegetarian food by an average of 3.2 kg versus 1.6 kg (as in the case of the normal, omnivorous diet). All of the dependent values, i.e., circumference of abdomen and hip, and "body-mass-index" (BMI) showed the same highly significant differences. Even after 1 year approximately two-thirds of the patients of the vegetarian group chose the reduction of meat and meat-products in their diet, of which merely a small part, 5.3%, were faithful to the pure lactovegetarian food. Essentially, the favorable effects on the lipid values persisted. The positive effects on the lipid values, the weight, and the motivation of the group of patients with the lactovegetarian diet allow the general recommendation of this diet for heart patients in the course of their clinical rehabilitation.
J Am Diet Assoc 1995 Feb;95(2):180-6, 189, quiz 187-8
Nutrient intakes and eating behavior scores of vegetarian and nonvegetarian women.
Janelle KC, Barr SI. School of Family and Nutritional Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
OBJECTIVE: To compare nutrient
intakes between vegetarians and nonvegetarians with similar health practices,
and to assess relationships with eating behavior scores from the Three-Factor