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BMI not the best way to determine health

By Kelly Tansor, Copy Editor (ktanso2@uic.edu)

The BMI measurement, which stands for Body Mass Index, is the standard metric used to determine who is normal, overweight, obese, etc. and has been used for years.  The metric is based on height and weight, but does not account for several other factors that go into determining weight, leading many people to believe that the BMI is just BS.

The BMI has recently come under fire when an 11-year-old athletic girl was given a letter to be sent home that labeled her ‘obese’ for having a BMI of 22.  Several schools in the U.S. have been using this measurement in order to combat child obesity, but the BMI has been scientifically proven not to be an accurate measurement of healthy body weight.

The BMI is computed by the following equation:

bmiformula

In the top equation, 703 is simply a conversion factor to change units from metric units (like kilograms) to units we in America are used to (like pounds and inches).

The following table displays where people rank health-wise according to the BMI.

bmichart

The BMI rules out many factors in determining a healthy body weight, such as age, gender, genetics, diet, metabolism, waist size, exercise habits, and fat distribution; excess belly fat puts people at risk for diabetes and heart disease, whereas fat anywhere else can be innocuous.  The BMI also is inaccurate for athletes; many athletes have more bone and muscle density, giving them a higher BMI despite how healthy they are.

In spite of this, doctors continue to use this measurement, mainly because it is simple to use.  Just plug in a few a numbers and BAM – you can tell whether or not someone is obese.  While people with an obese BMI are at risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases that lead to higher mortality, sometimes the opposite is true; some people with a BMI considered to be obese had an improved metabolic profile and reduced cardiovascular risk, while some people with a normal BMI were metabolically unhealthy and have increased mortality risk.  Coming from someone with a high metabolism who rarely exercised in middle school and remained as skinny as a twig, I can vouch for this.

If you really want to figure out how healthy you are, don’t worry too much about your BMI.  Stay healthy the old-fashioned way – eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid unhealthy habits that can be detrimental to your health (excess drinking, smoking, etc.).  All of this may be difficult to college students, but it can be done.

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