Is Your Bmi Really A Good Measure Of Your Health

The body mass index or BMI has long been the quality for measuring health. The simple formula usually classifies whether our weight is within a “healthy” range for our height. BMI provides an estimate of a person’s overall risk of disease and is used throughout the world to experience obesity.

But BMI has come under fire because it is often inaccurate for estimating body fat and does not give a complete picture of a person’s health. Research also shows that relying only on BMI to predict a person’s risk of health problems is often misleading.

Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian mathematician, and astronomer, initially devised the formula for determining BMI in 1832. He divides his weight in kilograms by his height in meters squared (kg / m2) to arrive at this figure. BMI is classified as follows in adults:

BMI categories to define weight status. Sarah Sauchelli Toran and Karen Coulman, Author provided

With merely a height and weight measurement, BMI can be a rapid, easy, and inexpensive technique to identify overweight or obesity.
cancers of numerous sorts (such as breast, colon, and prostate). Since obesity carries a higher risk of diseases, including heart conditions, strokes, and diabetes, BMI can identify those who are at higher risk of developing health problems. Sometimes you also make decisions about who receives certain treatments and evaluate the effectiveness of certain weight-loss interventions.

What your BMI means

Understanding what your BMI means, helps to take a step back and understand what it measures and why it is measured.

BMI can be a calculation of your size that takes into account your height and weight. Several years ago, I remember using charts that asked you to determine your height along the left side and then swipe to the right to see your “ideal weight” from the options listed in small, medium, or “frame” sizes. large.

These charts come from actuarial statistics, calculations that life insurance companies use to estimate your probability of reaching a difficult age, data-backed by thousands of people. These charts were cumbersome to use and it had never been clear how to decide a person’s “frame size”.

BMI does something similar: it expresses the connection between your height and weight as a number that is not linked to the size of the chart. Although the origin of the BMI is more than 200 years old, it is quite new as a measure of health.

What’s a normal BMI?

A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 25; an individual with a BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, and an individual with a BMI greater than 30 is considered obese. An individual is considered underweight if the BMI is less than 18.5.

As with most health measures, BMI is not an ideal test. For example, results are often altered by pregnancy or high muscle mass, and it will not be an honest measure of the health of the young or the elderly. So why does BMI matter? In general, the higher your BMI, the greater the danger of developing a variety of conditions related to being overweight, including

  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • liver disease
  • several types of cancer (such as those of the breast, colon, and prostate)
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • high cholesterol
  • sleep apnea.

According to the WHO, nearly three million people die annually worldwide from being overweight or obese. Also, regardless of any particular disease, people with a high BMI often report that they feel better, both physically and psychologically, once they lose excess weight.

Should we stop giving so much “weight” to BMI?


Maybe. Research suggests that BMI alone misclassifies metabolic health. Which is related to the proportion of fat an individual has and how it is distributed. And, BMI could also be particularly unreliable during pregnancy, for athletes, and therefore for the elderly.

Actually, this may not come as a surprise. BMI, as a measure, would not be expected to detect cardiovascular health or disease; an equivalent is true for cholesterol, blood glucose, or vital signs as a measure. And while cardiovascular health is vital, it is not the only measure of health! For example, the study mentioned above did not consider conditions that may even be relevant to an individual with a high BMI, such as disease or arthritis. Additionally, BMI could also be more helpful in predicting future health rather than current. Those who are healthy and overweight or obese are more likely to develop diabetes or other negative health consequences over time, according to studies like this and this one.

Current BMI definitions of overweight or obesity were based primarily on white populations. However, body composition, including body fat percentage or amount of muscle mass, can vary by race and ethnicity. Therefore, BMI can help predict health status among white people. But it may also be less accurate for people of other racial and ethnic groups.

For example, defining obesity using standard BMI measures tends to overestimate the risk in black people and underestimate it in those of Asian descent. This could cause suboptimal counseling and treatment and should ultimately increase disparities in health care. The Planet Health Organization and therefore the National Institutes of Health recommend different BMI limits for overweight and obesity in people of Asian descent. Changes may well be recommended for other groups in the future as research on BMI evolves.

The bottom line

BMI is certainly not an optimal health indicator as a metric. However, it is still a good place to start when it comes to serious illnesses that are more common when a person is overweight or obese. Understanding your BMI, in my opinion, is a good idea. However, it’s equally critical to understand its limitations.

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