BMI is a subpar measure of your health, experts say

By Lance Tillson, National Monitor | August 25, 2013

BMI is a subpar measure of your health, experts say

Are you comfortable with using the BMI as a measure of your health?


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Two obesity researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are trying to discredit the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a widely used measure of a person’s health. They make their case in a perspective article published in the journal Science.

However, their passion for defaming the BMI isn’t shared by everyone in the scientific community. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the BMI affords a “reliable indicator” of fat for a lot of individuals and is suitable for the purpose of spotting weight categories that may result in health problems.

“Obesity has increased worldwide; is a major risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, sleep apnea, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, and other ailments; and has been associated with disability, mortality, and enormous health costs,” the authors argue in a summary of their perspective article. “Despite these clear adverse consequences of obesity, some studies have suggested that obesity as defined by [BMI] improves survival under certain conditions.”

Although several studies have revealed an increase in mortality in obese people, recent studies have indicated that obesity safeguards against death from all causes as well as death because of chronic disease. The “obesity-mortality” paradox implying a helpful influence of obesity is extremely controversial.

As noted by LiveScience, the researchers believe that the problem arises from the fact that the BMI is a terrible measure of an individual’s health. For instance, the BMI fails to take into consideration fat, and where that fat is located on the body. While abdominal fat may raise the risk of a number of chronic illnesses, peripheral fat may be safer.

“There is an urgent need for accurate, practical and affordable tools to measure fat and skeletal muscle, and biomarkers that can better predict the risks of diseases and mortality,” said Dr. Rexford Ahima, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Obesity Unit in the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, in a Penn news release. “Advances to improve the measurement of obesity and related factors will help determine the optimal weight for an individual, taking into account factors such as age, sex, genetics, fitness, pre-existing diseases, as well novel blood markers and metabolic parameters altered by obesity.”

Are you comfortable with using the BMI as a measure of your health? What would be a good alternative? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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