Wednesday 24 August 2016

Know Your BMI, Know Your Risk

In recent years, there has been an upward trend in the intake of calorie, fats and cholesterol in Singaporeans[i]. It is further exacerbated by lack of physical activity among Singaporeans where only 1 in 4 adult Singaporeans exercise or participate in any form of physical activity [ii].

Obesity is a serious health problem for Singaporeans as it is a major risk factor that could potentially lead to the onset of diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and certain cancers. Hence, it is very important for you to know whether you fall in the obese, overweight, normal or underweight category and are potentially at risk of developing other health conditions.

An important tool to determine whether your weight falls in the healthy range is the Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI is a better indication of potential weight problems than simply looking at your weight.

Know Your BMI, Know Your Risk

Body Mass Index or BMI is a measurement tool used to classify a range of health risk categories. It is very easy to calculate your own BMI - just divide your bodyweight in kilogrammes by the square of your height in metres.

Body Mass Index (BMI) = Weight (in kilogrammes) / Height (in metres) x Height (in meters)

The table below shows your risk for weight-related problems. It also shows that if your BMI is above 27.5, you are considered obese and are at a high risk of developing diabetes (type 2) and cardiovascular disease while a BMI of 23-27.4 means that you are overweight and puts you at moderate risk of developing these conditions.

BMI (kg/m2) for Adults

Health Risk Classification

27.5 and above

High Risk

23.0 – 27.4

Moderate Risk

18.5 – 22.9

Low Risk (healthy range)

Below 18.5

Risk of nutritional deficiency diseases and osteoporosis

Knowing your BMI is crucial to battling obesity as it can help you assess the health risks you are exposed to and take preventive steps to better manage your weight.
Prevention of obesity

In order to address obesity holistically, the focus cannot lie on BMI alone. It is also recommended that persons over 40 years in age go for regular screening for early detection and optimal management of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

To tackle the growing obesity problem, it is important to understand the energy balance equation which states the need for a balance of calories consumed through eating and drinking, with that of energy expended by physical activity. If the energy taken in by food and drink exceeds the energy expended, weight gain will occur.

In essence, it is important to engage in physical activity to burn more calories and to limit intake of calories (from food consumed) to balance the energy equation.

To ensure a sufficient intake of essential nutrients, you should adhere to the following nutrition guidelines.

1. Eat a Variety of Foods using the Healthy Diet Pyramid as a Guide 
Select a variety of food from each food group of the pyramid to get all the nutrients and other substances needed for optimal health, and be mindful of the fat and sugar content of food to prevent unwanted weight gain.

2. Eat Sufficient Amounts of Grains, especially Whole Grains 
Whole-grains are higher in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant substances. Most importantly, they may help in weight management. Hence replace 2 – 3 servings of the rice and alternatives food in the Healthy Diet Pyramid with whole-grains food. Whole-grains are food such as oats, unpolished rice, wholemeal bread, brown rice, beehoon and whole-grain cereals.

3. Eat Enough of Fruit and Vegetables 
Having your daily two servings of fruit and vegetables each, will not only lower your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer, but also plays an important role in your attempt to manage your weight.

4. Choose and Prepare Food with Less Fat 
Cutting down on high-fat food (e.g. deep fried food, fast food, meat fat, poultry skin, full cream dairy, butter/hard margarine, pastries and cakes) can help you manage your weight.

5. Choose and Prepare Food with Less Salt and Sauces 
Food with less salt and sauces are lower in sodium and hence may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease and certain cancers. Having less sauce may also reduce the fat content of your meals and hence aid in weight management.

6. Choose Beverages and Food with Less Sugar 
You should make an effort to reduce your sugar intake if you are aiming to lose weight because over consumption of food and beverages that are high in naturally occurring sugar (e.g. fruit juices, honey) or added sugar (e.g. soft drinks, cakes, desserts) can lead to unwanted weigh gain.

[i] Health Promotion Board, The National Nutrition Survey 2004

[ii] Health Promotion Board, The National Health Surveillance Survey 2007

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