The BMI scale is innacurate - Deepstash
The BMI scale is innacurate

The BMI scale is innacurate

The BMI scale cannot be applied to everyone (especially women & POC) because it was developed by studying European men — and thus does not take into account racial & sex differences.

It is also an inaccurate measure of body fat content because it does not take into account muscle mass, bone density & overall body composition.

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Alternatives to BMI
  • Waist-to-hip ratio: measures abdominal fat. It's convenient but does NOT consider different body shapes/muscle & bone mass.
  • Body fat percentage: dinguishes between fat mass & fat-free mass and more accurate. However accurate measuring equipment is expensive & inaccessible.
  • Lab test: various blood & vital signs measurements to indicate health risks. More accurate but NOT convenient (need multiple tests to be accurate).

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Why do health-care providers still use BMI?

Research shows that BMI is a reliable estimate of health risks.

Plus, it’s convenient, cost effective, & accessible in all healthcare settings.

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How innacurate is BMI?
  • Asians may have increased health risks before their BMI qualifies as overweight due to their tendency to hold abdominal fat.
  • Athletes tend to have heavier bones & more muscle mass, resulting in higher BMI but may NOT be unhealthy.
  • Pregnant/nursing Women typically have higher BMIs due to higher body fat percentage, but may NOT be unhealthy.
  • People aged 65+ with a higher BMI tend to have more muscle mass, which has a protective effect in terms of overall functionality.

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History of BMI

Using a weight-to-height index devised by Adolphe Quetelet in 1832 (the Quetelet index), Dr. Ancel Keys coined the term "body mass index" as a convenient way to measure relative obesity.

He judged BMI as inappropriate for individual evaluation.

However, it is widely used for preliminary diagnoses today.

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Conclusion

While there are alternatives to use in place of the BMI scale, each tool comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Thus, healthcare providers should use the available alternatives together with the BMI index to obtain a more accurate reading of their patient's health risks.

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Why should there be alternatives to BMI?
  1. For a more accurate assessment of health risks. (Factors such as age, gender, race, medical history, exercise, nutrition, stress, etc, should be taken into account.)
  2. To prevent weight bias, in which doctors assume that the patient's higher BMI is the cause of their diagnosis, leading to poor quality healthcare.

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What is BMI?

The Body mass index (BMI) is a marker for health & obesity. It can be measured using the following formula: weight (kg) ÷ height² (m²)

BMI indexes:

  • 18.5> is underweight
  • 18.5 ~ 24.9 is normal
  • 25 ~ 29.9 is overweight
  • 30< is obese

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Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a mathematical formula and divides a person's weight by the square of their height. The answer falls into one of eight categories and indicates the person's bodyweight, from very severely underweight to very severely obese. A high BMI can indicate a high body fat and be used to screen for possible health problems.

But BMI is not a perfect measurement and may actually overestimate or underestimate a person's body fat.

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Health and the weight-related stigma

Obesity should not just be defined by weight, but also by a person's health.

Doctors should go beyond only recommending diet and exercise. They should take a holistic approach to health.

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The population-wide BMI statistics show that nearly 60 per cent of people in the UK and US are overweight.

BMI is the ratio of body weight in kilograms divided by the square of one's height in metres. It is represented as kg/m2. 

  • A 'normal' BMI is 20-25kg/m2. 
  • A BMI of 18kg/m2 and lower is underweight.
  • A BMI of 25-30kg/m2 is considered overweight. 
  • Over 30kg/m2 is classed as obese.

BMI is flawed as it only uses weight and height. It cannot differentiate between muscle and fat.

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