Q and A

BMI is broken


  Remember when you would go to the doctor and he would pull out his height and weight chart and tell you if you were in an acceptable healthy weight range?

Well we traded those charts for the Body Mass Index (BMI) so quickly it made our heads spin.

We had no real evidence-based reason for doing so; I guess it was just easier for doctors to have a number and label to give patients.

We like to know how we stack up

It doesn’t matter what subject we look at you always want to know how you stack up in relation to some standard.

“Am I earning more than the majority of the population?”
“Can I run as fast as most people in my age group?”
“Do I own more shoes than Imelda Marcos?”

You get the picture.

So off we went for years using BMI, the ratio of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared.

Doctors used this as a way to categorize people and let them know if they were underweight, normal weight, over weight, or obese. In other words our BMI was used to tell us if we were healthy or not.

“Is my BMI better than yours?”

The problem, as those of us in the exercise and nutrition fields have long known, is that this equation does not factor in muscle mass, or fat mass. It uses just the number on the scale.

And boy, do we know what happens when we do that!

Thankfully some researchers from UCLA have crunched the numbers and presented their data.

Millions of Americans have erroneously been labeled overweight or obese—54 million to be exact.

Ok, hold on.

Looking around can give us a good indicator of the prevalence of overweight and obese folks in our country.

Just because these researchers did some investigating does not mean that 54 million Americans are no longer overweight or obese.

It just means that 54 million Americans who are over weight or obese are not showing signs of other metabolic issues, or measures of disease.

Perhaps this is what we needed in order to get the medical community on board with using BMI as part of a screening tool instead of a diagnostic tool in and of itself.

Together with health history information it can help healthcare practitioners sort the masses of patients seen each day and create more appropriate treatment plans for them.

Perhaps using a method to measure body composition would help the most. This would allow us to weed out those who are typically missed.

Using only the BMI measure, normal weight obese are routinely cleared as ‘healthy’ just as those who may be very muscular are flagged as ‘unhealthy’.

The amount of bodyfat you have rather than the amount you weigh is a better indicator of your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obstructive sleep apnea, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, gall bladder disease, and breast and colon cancers.

The more you have the greater your risk.

This holds true regardless of the number on the scale.

Learn more about dropping bodyfat to decrease your risk of disease.

Drop bodyfat to beat cancer

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