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 not designed by Belgian mathematician Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet 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. The manner in which people carry their weight is a factor missing from the BMI chart.
Whether calculated for men or for women, girls or boys, with Imperial 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. Whatever the BMI value is, a comparison with key health markers needs to be factored into the equation.
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. ClinicalPosters continues to sell nutritional anatomy posters that feature BMI charts based on Imperial units. The one pictured 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
- BMI is Inaccurate, Mislabels 54 Million “Obese” or “Overweight” People as Unhealthy. 2016, thescienceexplorer.com