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What is the difference between being overweight and obese?

The body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference are used to classify the weight of adults into healthy, overweight and obese. The BMI is calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters), squared. For a healthy weight, the BMI score should be in the range of 18.5 - 25, an overweight person has a BMI score between 25 - 30, and an obese person has a BMI score greater than 30. It is important to remember that the BMI is an approximate guide and is not accurate for everyone. Also, BMI does not take into account where body fat is accumulated on the body. Not all body fat contributes equally to health problems. Fat underneath the skin, particularly on the hips and thighs, does not tend to cause as many problems as fat around your abdomen. This is because fat which builds up around the organs, inside the abdominal cavity, can cause inflammation within the body and contributes to many health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. At any given weight, different people will carry varying amounts of fat around their abdomen. For this reason, waist circumference, which can be a good indicator of how much abdominal fat a person is carrying, is also often used to assess how much of a risk a person's extra weight may pose to their health. The waist circumference is measured (in centimeters) around the waist, at the level of the bellybutton. A waist circumference that is greater than 102 cm (for men) or 88 cm (for women), indicates a high risk of developing health problems.

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About this article

Author: Kellie Heywood
First answered: 31 Oct 2014
Last reviewed: 19 May 2018
Rating: 4.9 out of 5
Votes: 1207 (Click smiley face below left to rate)
Category: Obesity


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