Over the past 100 years, health professionals have been using the body mass index, or BMI, to predict who is overweight or underweight.
The BMI is used by researchers, doctors, and others in population studies.
There are some essential flaws in BMI. Among others, it does not assess fat or muscle mass.
BMI is calculated using a math formula. Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician, and sociologist Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet devised it in the 1830s.
This calculation divides weight by height to estimate a person’s healthy weight.
Amy Lee, M.D. says “that people are ‘underweight,’ ‘normal,’ ‘overweight,’ or obese.”
However, many experts now recognize that the measurement has real problems, and the way it is applied can cause more harm than good. Some of the factors include:
“Overweight” Does Not Mean “Unhealthy”
BMI is associated with certain conditions overall, but there is little evidence that higher weights cause these conditions in individual patients.
We can oversimplify things in our culture with so much emphasis on thinness and BMI. People with elevated BMIs are sometimes denied treatment or offered weight loss as a panacea.
Paula Brochu, Ph.D., says, “A doctor may diagnose obesity as the problem, prescribe weight loss as the treatment, and send the person away without further investigation.
Ethnicity And Race Matter
Research shows that the significance of BMI is different for different groups, regardless of how the number is calculated.
Saniea Majid, M.D. says, “With a BMI of 27, metabolic syndromes like diabetes and heart disease increase for the Indian population.”
Researchers have found that a higher BMI may be suitable for Black people, as they live longer than white people with a BMI of around 23 to 25.
BMI Does Not Consider Body Composition
Dr. Lee says that muscled people usually get classified as “overweight,” leading to stigma and denial of resources.
BMI calculations do not take your body fat into account.
BMI: Why Is It Still Used?
It’s simple to calculate and cheap to measure and the basis of decades of health research. It also forms the backbone of our healthcare system.
When combined with other tools, many doctors, including Dr. Majid, find it helpful as a screening tool.
Some doctors, such as Brochu, feel that using the BMI puts too much emphasis on weight and fuels the false belief that thinness equals health.