Report: Millions in US May Be 'Skinny-Fat'
Katie Drummond, Contributor
(Jan. 28) -- We all know Americans have a fat problem. About 67 percent of adults, 140 million of us, are either overweight or obese, according to government data.
But don't fool yourself into thinking those other 75 million American adults have a healthy relationship with body fat. A new report from the Mayo Clinic, which looked at data from 6,100 patients, warns that as many as 30 million Americans are skinny yet, somehow, still fat.
Put simply, the "skinny-fat" phenomenon occurs when someone has a normal body weight but a high percentage of body fat. Experts have dubbed the problem "normal weight obesity" and warn that it can accompany a host of health risks, mostly the same ones plaguing the obese and overweight: diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Those suffering from middle weight obesity probably look average in size but harbor internal fat stores -- called visceral fat -- that surround organs but don't show up upon superficial examination. It takes one of a few specific types of medical tests, like using calipers to pinch fat or submerging the body in water, to determine body fat levels.
High-risk fat levels are about 23 percent for men and 33 percent for women. By comparison, body fat levels among male athletes can be as low as 8 percent, and 15 percent for women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses body mass index, based on height and weight, to slot Americans into categories. A BMI below 25 is normal; above 25 is overweight, and anything above 30 is considered obese. The new Mayo Clinic data are based on more precise body fat measurements of those with "normal" BMIs.
The combination of obese and overweight Americans and "normal weight obese" Americans leaves few adults -- about 45 million, or 21 percent -- in a normal range when it comes to weight and fat-to-muscle ratio.
With experts urging more exercise to combat both problems, it's interesting to note that this figure almost matches up with current American workout habits: a 2008 Gallup poll found that 32 percent of Americans get regular vigorous activity, and only 15 percent pump iron.