A few times a day my clients may ask me - what’s my BMI?
My response – that’s not important to me but let’s get a measure of your body fat.
A new study this week found that BMI might be incorrectly classifying many individuals as healthy when their body fat composition may indicate otherwise.
BMI or Body Mass Index, calculated by dividing your weight over your height, squared, is a rough measure many health-care professionals use to determine whether an individual is overweight, or at risk for medical issues such as heart disease, and diabetes.
Dr. Richard Bergman, an obesity specialist at USC states that BMI is an easy cheap measure to track changes in the health and nutrition of large populations, but it was never meant to be a predictor of an individual’s health risks.
He states this week in the Los Angeles Times “BMI is a poor measure of fatness, and we need better measures.”
Dr. Eric Braverman, one of the researchers on this study called BMI “Baloney Mass Index.” He went on to say that it’s widespread use is feeding the failure of public health and treatments for obesity.
What’s the bottom line here? Forget your BMI.
If you are concerned about your health, there are better ways to assess your health risks – regular blood work, measuring your waist circumference (should be less than 40" for males and less than 35" for females), and a body fat assessment.
The golden method of measuring body fat is underwater weighing. I joke to my clients that it is not convenient to have a tank of water in my office and therefore use bioelectrical impedance (BIA), which measures the resistance to the flow of current going through your body.
BIA measures lean body tissue such as organs, water weight, bone and muscles, which provide resistance whereas fat does not thereby indirectly giving a body fat measurement. Although not as accurate as hydrostatic measurements, it is simple, easy to do in an office setting and great to measure over time to see changes in what type of weight you’ve lost – fat or muscle.
Finally, if want to see if your weight is a risk take a good honest look in the mirror – do you have fat in your abdominal area that seems excessive? If so, you’re more likely to be at risk for diabetes or heart disease and no calculated measure can tell you what you already know inside – and that’s not baloney.