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. Height and the manner in which people carry their weight is a factor missing from the BMI chart.
View eight paragraphs revealing benefits and fallacies…
Whether calculated 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 accounted for in BMI—essentially, just height and weight. Ideal standards are tall, thin, European stature. Whatever the BMI value is, a comparison with key health markers needs to be factored into 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 metrics to determine insurance rates and treatment plans. Despite the controversy, it is one of the common indicators of physical fitness and health. 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. This and the linked table with metric units should be used with proper discernment.
- Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI Is Bogus. 2009, npr.org
- BMI (Body Mass Index). 2016, medicalnewstoday.com
- Excess Pounds and Heart Disease: How to Calculate Your Risk. clevelandclinic.org
- BMI is Inaccurate, Mislabels 54 Million “Obese” or “Overweight” People as Unhealthy. 2016, thescienceexplorer.com
- Disentangling the Effects of Racial and Weight Discrimination on Body Mass Index and Obesity Among Asian Americans. 2008, nih.gov
- Coping With Perceived Racism: A Significant Factor in the Development of Obesity in African American Women? 2011, nih.gov
- The Racist Roots of Fighting Obesity. 2020, scientificamerican.com
- The BMI Is Racist And Useless. Here's How To Measure Health Instead. 2020, huffpost.com