MORE young Australian men are likely to be obese than previously estimated, Deakin University research has revealed.
The study by researchers with Deakin’s IMPACT Strategic Research Centre found that 24 per cent of young Australian men are obese, as opposed to the previous estimate of eight per cent.
IMPACT Strategic Research Centre’s Professor Julie Pasco said the discrepancy was due to inaccuracies with the Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement system.
“While we found BMI-based estimates for obesity in most women were fairly accurate, the use of the BMI markedly underestimated the amount of body fat in young men aged 20-29,” Prof Pasco said.
“The fat to weight ratio appears to be disproportionately high in this group, which means many young men are carrying more fat, proportional to their weight, than expected.”
The study analysed data from around 2500 randomly-selected men and women, aged 20–96 years, all participants in the long-term Geelong Osteoporosis Study. Whole-body scans were used to more accurately measure fat and reveal actual obesity levels.
Prof Pasco said extra fat young men were carrying was having an effect similar to premature aging.
“It means that an alarming number of young men are exhibiting the physical characteristics of older men, where muscle mass has been replaced by fat. This has particular implications for muscle weakness and potential osteoporosis later in life,” she said.
“It seems that the modern sedentary lifestyle and poor diet of this group have contributed to this new trend at a population level.
“Global and Australian estimates of obesity have been based on Body Mass Index. Yet, as a measure of body weight for height, this technique doesn’t account for different body types. It doesn’t distinguish between fat, muscle or bone, which contribute to body weight differently for men and women, and for different age groups.”
“Using BMI has been simple to measure and easy to calculate, so it has become entrenched. However, we have discovered that it is not accurate, especially in the case of both young and elderly men,” Prof Pasco said.
“We have an obesity epidemic on our hands. We need the most accurate information possible so that we can address this issue and encourage people to improve their diet and lifestyle,” Professor Pasco said.
The results of the study were recently published in the open access journal BMC Obesity.