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Baylor College of Medicine News

Obesity risk still present at a healthy weight

Sometimes, the scale does lie. Being a healthy weight doesn't rule out the risk for obesity, said an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Obesity is measured by excess body fat, not necessarily weight, so it is possible to have a normal weight andstill be obese," said Dr. John Foreyt, director of the behavioral medicine research center at BCM.

Percentage of body fat

The average male should have about 15 percent body fat or less, and anything over 25 percent is considered obese. The average female should have about 25 percent body fat or less, and anything over 35 percent is considered obese, said Foreyt, also a professor of medicine at BCM.

"It's important to not only be lean, but also to have lower body fat," said Foreyt.

Health concerns

It is possible for someone to be overweight and fit, but those who are normal weight and unfit have a higher risk for cardiovascular mortality. Health concerns such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can still be an issue for those at a healthy weight.

To determine percent body fat, use a scale that measures bioelectrical impedance, said Foreyt.

Those who are lean need to have a well balanced eating and exercise plan that includes balance, variety and moderation. A balanced diet means that less than 30 percent of calories come from fat, about 20 percent of calories come from protein and more than 50 percent come from carbohydrates. These carbohydrates should mostly be complex carbohydrates, which include fruits, vegetables, breads and cereals. Also be sure to increase fiber intake.

Exercise

An exercise plan should include 30 to 60 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week. Be sure to check with a physician before starting an exercise plan.

Be careful of falling into bad habits, said Foreyt. Although metabolism may prevent someone from gaining weight as a teen or young adult, metabolic rates begin to drop with age. It's important to start eating healthy and exercising at a young age, since bad habits are hard to break.