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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 19th May 2017 > FAT AND FICTION

FAT AND FICTION

There’s a dangerous racial bias in the body mass index

@jessfirger

AT 73, Kanta Patel is contending with a host of chronic health conditions. In 2004, she went for a physical and learned she had elevated cholesterol. Then, two years later, Patel’s doctor diagnosed her with hypertension. She’s also a borderline Type 2 diabetic.

One would never think Patel, who emigrated from India 50 years ago, had such serious illnesses. She appears fit: 5 feet tall, 102 pounds, with a body mass index of only 19. She has always been physically active, and she eats a vegetarian diet. But looks (and a great BMI number) can be deceiving.

An increasing amount of research shows that BMI and weight are not necessarily the main indicators of a person’s health. Additionally, what’s considered an unhealthy BMI—a number that may predict the onset of chronic diseases— is not the same across all races and ethnicities. Many who question the use of BMI in clinical settings point out that it’s a health metric that’s resulted from decades of research mostly conducted on white people.

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MACRON STRONGER THAN LE PEN, BUT FRANCE’S WORRIES FAR FROM OVE It was the day the world didn’t end, the day that the tide of populism that gave the world Brexit and Donald Trump turned, the moment when French voters chose pragmatism over protest. That, at least, was the judgment of Europe’s establishment at the victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7th French presidential election. It’s not hard to see why the defeat of the Euroskeptic, anti-immigration Marine Le Pen was so vital to the West’s future. A victory for Le Pen’s far-right National Front party would likely have heralded the disintegration of the European Union and the end of the continent’s grand experiment with open borders. However, with Macron's victory, establishment Europe shouldn’t feel too relieved about right-winger Marine Le Pen’s defeat in France.
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