Body shape, not mass, accurately predicts risk of early death - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Body shape, not mass, may accurately predict risk of early death

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KATY, Texas -

At 28-years-old, Leah Goldstein, a former college athlete and current owner of CrossFit Katy is in top form.

On top of her five weekly workouts to prepare for CrossFit competitions, Goldstein is a full-time trainer, coaching an average of 22 classes a week.

She's also a nurse and works as a nutritionist at Specialty Healthcare and Wellness in Bellaire.

"I spend my time over there teaching people about nutrition and fitness to some extent but really, we do a lot of wellness," she said.

Goldstein stands just under 5-feet 8-inches tall and weighs in at 163 pounds, which puts her body mass index, or BMI, at 25.1.

"Which is considered overweight," she laughed.

Let's back up a bit.

BMI is a measure of "body fat" based on height and weight. The internet has made it easy to calculate. Simply type in your numbers, and you'll get your BMI- which doctors use to predict weight related health risks.

So how does someone as fit as Goldstein end up with a high BMI?

"For someone like me, well, I weigh a lot because I have a lot of muscle mass," she said. "And muscle mass weighs a lot."

Dr. Tony Primomo is a bariatric surgeon at The Davis Clinic at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital.

"That's one of the failings of BMI," Dr. Primomo said. " It's not really looking at the fat distribution. It's not really taking into account what is the distribution of muscles."

That is why researchers developed a new formula, called A Body Shape Index or ABSI, which predicts a patient's risk of early death.

"The big difference is this is actually looking at the waist circumference of a patient and how fat cells are distributed through out the body," Dr. Primomo said.

Human bodies, especially those belonging to females, have been described as "apple" or "pear" shaped. "Apples" store fat around their stomach. "Pears" store it around their hips and thighs. The terms aren't just about vanity. They actually do help doctors pinpoint potential problems.

"What they're seeing is that if someone has an "apple" shape, (and) holds most of their fat on their abdomen, that's actually worse for them as a predictor of possibly having a heart attack or stroke or developing diabetes down the line," Dr. Primomo said.

According to Dr. Primomo, most men fall into the "apple" category. Goldstein's body shape doesn't really fit into either category, despite her high BMI. Taking her waistline into consideration, Goldstein's ABSI score shows a below average mortality rate. In simple terms: she's healthier than most people.

"I think BMI is an older, almost outdated type of health measure," she said.

"BMI has been extremely well established in looking at these types of things," Dr. Primomo said. "ABSI is newer and is going to have to be validated over these next few years."

On the Web:

A Body Shape Index (ABSI) Calculator --

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute BMI guide --

Specialty Healthcare and Wellness --

CrossFit Katy --

The Davis Clinic --

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