Why Weight Doesn’t Matter. The Surprising Truth About Body Composition | Dr. Ara Jo
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Why Weight Doesn’t Matter. The Surprising Truth About Body Composition | Dr. Ara Jo

October 21, 2019

Hi, Dr. Jo. We’re here at the University
of Florida. And it’s so exciting to sit down with you, because in your mind, your
research, in the work that you’ve been doing over your career, you are focusing
on what I think are some of the absolute most important topics for us, especially
as women. So I wanted to start by asking you… How would you define body
composition? So first of all, thank you for inviting me. So, body composition is
actually the whole components of inside your body. So bone, muscle,
body water, and body fat. Yeah, we call them as body composition. And when you think about body composition, what do we need
to be thinking about as it relates to body composition? So it’s not that common to focus
on recently, but you know, obesity is always about excessive
body weight, and we have more fat, we need to lose our fat all the time. But
actually, body composition shifted our paradigm to focus on body fat. Because
that’s actually the risk factor of all obesity-related current diseases. So the body
fat or muscle mass that we really need for our life should be focused
on by all people. – Do you find that the focus on body composition- the numbers that we have, let’s say in our early 20s or in our- we have, we have a
group of interns here that are helping us and maybe we can show them, Sam. But
you know, are at their age, their body composition numbers… should those stay
the same like all the way up into my age, until we get older? We should always try
to keep the same numbers? Yes, so in terms of body fat mass, there
so no universal cup point, but it’s not age adjusted.
It’s just the biggest difference between you know, women have more fat than
men. So we just have sex specific fat mass. However, it doesn’t really specify
age difference. – Right. That’s really interesting. So um, personally and I know for a lot of people that are watching right now, we may have spent much of our
life thinking about the weight on the scale. So in my early 20s and throughout
most of my life, my weight would be like, let’s say, 125 pounds.
Pretty standard, average number. And I didn’t really think about that changing.
And then as my hormones changed, as my lifestyle changed, as I became more
sedentary, my number- my weight started to creep up. And a couple of years ago, when
I first started keto, and I was using a different source of fuel, I was using my
own body fat as energy. I went back into that same weight that I maintained
in my early 20s, but what I didn’t realize, because I wasn’t focused on body
composition, was the rate at which my muscle mass had begun to deteriorate. And
the way in which my body fat had transformed. So can you just speak a
little bit about what the numbers should be for body composition, what the range
is for most of us as women, and also what it should be for men, and then we’ll go
from there. – Okay, so as I mentioned earlier, there’s
no like- standard cup point for body fat mass, but widely use 25% of body fat
percentage for men and then 35% of women body fat mass are reasonable to say as like
a cup point. If you have more than 35% as a woman, we say you’re obese,
because you have excessive body fat and then actually more than 35% that
actually causes any type of obesity related chronic diseases.
– Such as? – Such as diabetes, hypertension,
hyperlipidemia like metabolism syndrome stuff like that.
– So for a woman to have less than 35, if we’re thinking about how- what is like,
the bio-optimized like- how are we the most optimized biologically, as a non-athlete?
– As yeah, that’s actually a good point, because most athletes have higher muscle
mass and lower body fat percentage. So unfortunately, we don’t have a specific
number for muscle mass as well, but we do not want like, really lower body fat as
well, because body fat is still an energy source for your body and metabolism.
So we want- there is a healthy range between 20-35 for women to
keep healthy and then looking good and with relatively good amount of muscle.
-Right, and then for a female athlete, they’ll go as low as what, 14?
– Yep, almost a little lower around 10 percent. And then men around 7-10, but it’s
really low. And then what is the average for men?
What should that be? – 25 percent for normal men.
So have you done research on- I know there’s new research that’s come
out recently on athletes needing to have even a little bit more body fat, and this
research around body composition is also quite new, right?
– Yes, yes. It came out actually in 1998. It started from NFL players because they look obese and
overweight. They have such a huge power, and then we cannot say, “Oh they are not healthy.”
– Right. Because they look obese, but they are actually healthy and then a
couple of articles actually show that the mortality rate for these NFL
players are way lower than the normal guys. – Oh, wow.
Who are the same age, but once they retire, their professional league, their
mortality rate, like spike up like five times higher than the normal people. So
how would you explain this situation? – How would you?
So once they do have regular exercise, even though they have overweight, and they have a more muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if they have a healthy body composition
with regular exercise, that would actually prevent chronic diseases, and
then having a longer life expectancy. – So when they go to a more regular exercise
plan, that muscle starts to deteriorate? Well they started to deteriorate, but we prevent
a huge amount of loss of muscle, like all of a sudden because they have a huge
intensive exercise during the season, but after, once they retire, they stop that
amount of exercise, but they still need to fill up the energy. And then the
energy expenditure like before. So that would prevent a decrease of a loss of muscle
and then prevent a huge increase of body fat. – So when you say, fill up the energy expenditure, meaning exercise, eating like- How do you look at that? Um, so as an athlete at standpoint, there is a program that I’ve heard from my friend, who it’s an athlete. They have a special meal plan
to stop losing their muscle, and also stop increasing their fat. So it
combines a lot of protein in their meals. They also have an exercise plan as
well. So you have to go to the gym like three times a week, or you have to lift
this amount of weight to keep your muscles, and then stop preventing
increased body fat. – Yeah, so as someone who’s in my mid-40s now… I focus almost entirely around building and then maintaining that muscle, right? (-Yes.)
Because otherwise, if we’re going through the natural aging process, what I need
now to maintain, it’s all about muscle? – Muscle, exactly. So after mid-40, especially for
women, women are likely to experience hormone change
(-Correct.) and then they also have experience of a lot of bone loss- like
bone mass loss. So they’re likely to… they’re prone to have arthritis as well,
or osteoporosis. Then we can’t actually stop losing our bone mass. Because
even though I have calcium supplement every day, I have vitamin D supplement
every day, it doesn’t really help to prevent bone mass loss. (-Right.) Then how
would you maintain your body composition, the healthy life, that should be muscle.
So there’s a point in the muscle around the bone. So even though you have a weak
point, but muscle can support your bone, then you are you are having a really
healthy mobility. And… how can I say… it’s a very healthy posture
(-Right.) and then ability walking. So for you, when you think about maintaining
and building that muscle around the bone, muscle starts to deteriorate at what, at
what age does it really- do see that deterioration? So we see, I mean most
researchers said after 50. So it’s not that old. After how old?
– 50. – 5-0?
– 5-0. – Oh interesting!
Yeah. – Okay.
So they start to their muscle after 50 years old. Especially women experience a huge
loss of muscle after 50, because of hormone change. So we highly recommend
to have more protein after 50, and then do actually
resistance training after 50 that might help to build up more muscle.
– It’s interesting that you say that. I’ve read quite a bit of research on the need for
you know, almost doubling your protein intake after the age of 50. You know, once
you go into that like, maybe the end of having menopause and into menopause, you
need to double the protein intake. And it relates to the breakdown of the muscle
during that time period? Correct, correct. Because metabolism
changes with aging as well, and then older people have really slow metabolic
speed, metabolism speed. And then double count of protein definitely helps to
build more muscle. – It’s really interesting. And then for people like me
who are on keto, you know understanding the right protein to fat ratio is also
something, you know that that we think about all the time. But certainly,
when you talk about the bone density loss, what age does that start to break down? So it could be, I can’t say… it could be after 40, but bio-realistically, it starts from 30. – It’s interesting because I had my bone
density tested when I was in my 20s, and I had already begun to lose some of its
density. And I was really surprised and really shocked.
– Yes, actually bone density is completed until 20s, and you start losing after 20s. Like, it’s a very natural process. (- Yes.) So no one can actually prevent bone density loss. But we can actually
prevent it by building up more muscle. And supporting those bones (- Correct.)
with the right muscles, the posture, the mobility. – The core muscle.
Yeah. What types of exercises do you like to do? So, I usually like sports, not like jogging
or running around. But I recently, I do pilates. – Yes, for the core?
For core muscle and also you know, I- we all have a sedentary lifestyle and sitting in front
of a monitor all day long. So I definitely feel I have ridden muscle recently, so
I’ve been doing pilates for two years already and I love it.
And also sometimes I do lift some weights. Right, that’s great! As it
relates to body composition, so that number is not age-specific, we want to
keep it the same. How do we know what our personal, optimal body comp should be? Are
there ways that we can test? How would we look to find that?
– So that’s a very important question. So unfortunately, MRI is the gold standard measurement for
measuring this whole body composition. But it’s too expensive. (- Right.) And the
insurance company never reimburse the MRI use for the screening. CT scan
or we say, Bio-Electronically Impedance Analysis (BIA) also can measure whole body compositions. They’re validated, but it’s not user-friendly
at home. You can see a doctor and they- you can request to a doctor and
then get a screening through one of those techniques. But recently, there are a
couple of home scales with you know, the digital scales. (- Yes.) They show body
composition, like body water, muscle, and body fats. (- Yes) It’s still not
validated. (- Correct.) So that’s kind of sad, but I believe they will have more advanced
technology in the near future, and then we can measure like whole body
composition at home. – I have one of those scales. And what I
like about it is it definitely is directional, right? So you get on the
scale you’re not just looking at your weight. (Correct) You’re staying on it for 30
seconds, 40 seconds, and it’s giving you a lot of different information. Yeah, aspects appear
of your body comp. So BMI is easy. I guess it’s the most widely used
measurement for obesity. You just stand up the scale and doctor says, “Oh you’re
obese. You have to lose your weight.” So still, I believe body weight includes
body fat, as well. So it’s still a good proxy of the whole obesity concept,
but there is also caveats. Yeah, like athletes, soldiers, like civil
workforces, they have more muscle, they weigh more. Then how could we say
they are unhealthy? – Right. Yeah, it’s a very interesting time as you do the research
on body composition. I think about body comp everyday
and I love that it enables me to understand my health more, it enables me
to become healthier. I’m focusing more on being strong and maintaining, and
building that powerful muscle that then can support the rest of the body
functions. When your BMI or excuse me- When your body composition is optimal,
what are the benefits that we should expect? So first of all, you can have
lower risk of all chronic diseases in your future, and you also have very
advanced mobility as well. And it’s actually, it can influence your mood
and depression and stuff, because you still have powerful muscle
and lower body fat. So you feel confidence of your whole body and
healthy lifestyle, so that might be. I don’t know, this is my answer, but…
– No, excellent! No, it’s very interesting. I get those- I have that feeling. You know,
when you’re strong in your body it definitely influences overall, the way
you feel about life. Yes.
– Dr. Jo, you’re teaching us all about the power of body comp. Which means that we should all stop focusing just on our
weight, and learn about all of the aspects of our composition of our body,
and get strong, get the right amount of protein, allow it to benefit our health
for a very long period of time. – Yes.
Thank you so much. Thank you very much.

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  1. Thank you Naomi for the good content of your channel. After has seen this video I think I will try to double my intake of protein for mass muscle and for my bone protection. And of course do my pilates, Iam olso in my forties.

  2. Great content Naomi 💚. I’m 57 post menopausal & I have Osteopenia, degenerate disc disease & bulging L4 L5!! I’m on estrogel, and Vitamin D3 K2 & eat a calcium rich diet & lift heavy every day…. might I be missing some other component ? Thanks again for all that you provide 😊

  3. Have you heard about osteostrong?? I’ve been doing it for 6 months and have done the mobile body scans and have shown some bone density increase.
    Dr John Jaquish is the person who came up with it and said that it reversed his mother’s osteoporosis.

  4. Weight matters. Theres always outside parameters. Obese ppl have bigger bones and muscles BECUZ of the weight. Theyre not in good shape lol

  5. TY for speaking to bone health. No one worries about their bones. Just their muscle. Weight training and calcium, magnesium, boron, etc maintains strong bones. You dont want your bones, think vertebrae, to crack from standing up! Or be unable to carry in your groceries or scrub a tub.

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