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BMI Is Poor Predictor of Health, Scientists Say

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A fixation with youth and beauty is not new for our culture. But our obsession with thinness is. We equate a slender frame and a low body mass index (BMI) with success, sex appeal, and health, and punish those who don’t—or can’t—have these qualities. Doctors all-too-frequently discriminate against overweight people, attributing all their patients’ problems to their body type and overlooking other issues. The stigma is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s irrational. New research published in the International Journal of Obesity shows that overweight and obese people are often just as healthy, and sometimes healthier, than people of "normal" weight.

BMI has become a shorthand for both body shape and health, despite protests from researchers. In addition to the social stigma and poor medical care, people with high BMIs can face real financial obstacles. Many U.S. businesses now offer employees bonuses for weight loss and lower BMIs. A proposal from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would, if enacted, allow insurance companies to charge more for people who are overweight or obese.

A. Janet Tomiyama, lead author of the new UCLA study published in the International Journal of Obesity, thinks this is ungrounded and unfair. In a press statement for the study she says, "Many people see obesity as a death sentence, but the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy."

"There are healthy people who could be penalized based on a faulty health measure, while the unhealthy people of normal weight will fly under the radar and won't get charged more for their health insurance," she continued. "Employers, policy makers and insurance companies should focus on actual health markers." 

Tomiyama and her colleagues analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which took place from 2005 to 2012. They compared people’s BMI categories with blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance, triglycerides, and blood sugar—actual health markers, in other words.

The results told an indisputable story. “Nearly half of overweight individuals, 29 percent of obese individuals, and even 16 percent of [extremely obese] individuals were metabolically healthy,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, over 30 percent of normal weight individuals were cardiometabolically unhealthy.”

The old way of thinking can hurt everyone. Just as overweight and obese people are assumed to be unhealthy, the reverse is true for those with lower BMIs. The signs of illness can be overlooked in those who fit our cultural ideas of what “health” looks like.

Speaking in the press statement, co-author Jeffrey Hunger said he was ready for change. "This should be the final nail in the coffin for BMI,” he concluded.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Live Smarter
Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item baked in an older kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. Historically, lead has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red. The chemical is avoided by potters today, but it can still show up in handmade dishware baked in older kilns that contain lead residue. Antique products from the era when lead was a common crafting material may also be unsafe to eat or drink from. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. Independent artisans have also moved away from working with the ingredient, but there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

This piece was updated to clarify that while lead may be present in antique ceramics and old kilns, it's no longer a common ingredient in ceramic glazes.

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