Body Mass Index: May not be the Best Indicator of Health

Azuka onye August 30, 2011

Many physicians and health care professionals use the Body Mass Index or BMI to predict a patient’s risks for hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. It is a calculation that uses a person’s height and weight to measure their body fat. People with higher than normal BMI’s are thought to be at greater risk for developing health complications later on in life.

Body Mass Index: May not be the Best Indicator of Health

However, over the years there has been much contention amongst researchers and health care professionals regarding whether or not a person’s BMI accurately portrays their overall health and associated risks. A study, consisting of 400 students, was conducted at Michigan State University in 2007. They found that in most cases the student’s measured BMI “did not accurately reflect his or her percentage of body fat.”

One of the problems lies in the fact that BMI does not distinguish between muscle mass and fat. This proves to be a huge issue amongst college students and athletes. While a person’s BMI may be higher than normal on paper, it may because the person is all muscle.   

Another problem with using BMI to assess a person’s overall health is that it does not account for fat distribution. Women, especially African women, have their weight distributed around their hips and thighs. This is commonly referred to as the “pear shape.” Studies have shown that this shape is benign health wise and poses no risks to the individual.

However, upper body obesity referred to as the “apple-shape,” is associated with a much greater risk for hypertension, insulin resistance, diabetes, dyslipidemia and coronary heart disease.

A number of experts believe that the waist-hip ratio, when compared to the Body Mass Index, is a much better predictor of a person’s risk for having a myocardial infarction and developing other health-related complications.



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Last Edited by: Updated: February 25, 2014


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