Belly fat not BMI “reliable indicator for health”, say experts


New guidelines based on a reassessment of health risks will lead to better ways to treat the different causes of obesity, umbrella health partnership PON has said.

Over half of the Dutch adult population is overweight and 14% is obese.

The guidelines for dealing with the obesity issue, which is on the increase, have not been changed since 2008, PON chair Liesbeth van Rossum told broadcaster NOS.

Van Rossum said that, based on research, obesity can now also be linked to cancer, fertility problems and joint problems, as well as diabetes and heart disease.

The new guidelines will focus on a different way of diagnosing obesity. A person’s BMI (body mass index)  is no longer seen as a reliable indicator of health risks, Van Rossum said. “Even bodybuilders can have a BMI that is too high. It is the amount of fat, and belly fat in particular that is causing health problems,” she said.

Cooperation between care organisations and social workers also needs to be strengthened, PON said, to tackle the social and psychological aspects of obesity.

The focus is not just on lifestyle choice, the organisation said, but on factors that can promote weight gain, such as poverty.

The guidelines will be introduced next year, including training for health professionals to learn about the latest insights on obesity. “They have to be able to talk about serious weight gain with people at an earlier stage, but in a respectful manner,” Van Rossum said.

PON also recommends a tax on sugar and making healthy food cheaper.

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