The BMI Controversy

Without a BMI chart, a doctor can surmise that a patient with anorexia nervosa is malnourished and someone who is morbidly obese likely has weight related disorders.

Ineffective By Design


Body Mass Index (BMI) was designed by Belgian mathematician Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, not to determine whether an individual person is healthy. It was a statistical formula for gauging characteristics of geographic populations.

Because of how Quetelet came up with with the formula, if a person is fat or obese, he or she will have a high BMI. But, it doesn’t work the other way round. A high BMI does not necessarily equate with obesity. We must evaluate the manner in which people carry their weight on an individual basis.

Whether for men or for women, girls or boys, with US customary or metric units, a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. Muscle weighs more than fat. Age, ethnicity and muscle mass are not BMI variables—essentially, just height and weight. Ideal standards are tall, thin European stature. Whatever the BMI value is, key health markers should be part of the equation.

BMI might overestimate risk in athletes who have a lot of muscle and little fat for their height. It could underestimate risk in older people who have lost muscle tone. You can have a healthy BMI, but still be at elevated risk for heart disease if your fat cells are settling in the wrong areas. Fat causes inflammation, leading to a wide range of health problems beyond heart disease.

Research Confirms Fallaciousness

Researchers define a “healthy” person as one who has healthy values in four or more of these indicators: blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, inflammation, and insulin levels—big indicators for risk of heart disease and diabetes.

A comparison of the relationship between BMI and cardiometabolic health led researchers to the conclusion that almost half of the people with a BMI in the “overweight” range, 29 percent of people with a BMI in the “obese” range, and 16 percent of the people in the “very obese” range were actually cardiometabolically healthy.

The healthcare industry latched onto BMI and began using the chart to determine insurance rates and treatment plans. Despite the controversy, it is one of the common indicators of physical fitness and health of individuals. It is so ingrained with healthcare treatment plans, that is virtually impossible to detangle.

ClinicalPosters sells nutritional anatomy posters that feature BMI charts based on US customary units. The one most common identifies three classifications for obesity. Use this with proper discernment.

To support the writing of useful articles about fitness, ClinicalPosters sells human anatomy posters, scientific posters and other products online. You may remit a small donation or leave an encourag­ing comment to keep the work going. Audio may include sound effects or intention­ally omit details.

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