How Much Is Too Much: Is the President Too Chunky?

ByABC News
August 7, 2006, 12:14 PM

Aug. 7, 2006 — -- Last week President Bush underwent his annual physical. It revealed he was in pretty good health, except for one thing. According to his body mass index, he's overweight.

His BMI was 26, putting him in the lower range of the overweight category. He weighs 196 pounds, meaning he has gained 5 pounds since last year and his percentage of body fat has increased to 16.8 percent, which is, overall, pretty good for a man who just turned 60. (To calculate your BMI, go here).

Still, the appropriate body weight range is 157 to 192 pounds for a 5-foot, 11-inch man. Is there cause for alarm? Should the president go on a diet?

Possibly, dietitians say.

"When you're 60 and your BMI is 26, it's a risk," says dietitian Cathy Nonas, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "As you get older, you are more prone to other ailments -- diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. It is helpful to not add another BMI point each year."

The notion that everyone gains weight as they age is not an excuse, say health care professionals.

"I don't know if I would say he's overweight, but if you look at the trend, increasing body weight is not a good pattern," says Leslie Bonci, director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "This weight gain trend is important as we get older."

While some experts have voiced concern over the president's weight, others say he has nothing to worry about. And one leading nutrition researcher believes BMI alone does not provide enough information to make a decision.

"In men, BMI is particularly misleading because of muscle mass. I would like to know the president's waist circumference. It appears the president is pretty healthy. However, if he's beginning a trend of gaining 5 pounds a year, that is not a good thing," says Barbara Rolls, head of nutritional sciences at Penn State University.

And J. Larry Durstine, president of the American College of Sports Medicine, says he believes the president should be recognized as a leader in maintaining good health.