Is BMI a Poor Determination of Healthiness?

When watching the Super Bowl or any other sporting event where the athletes have strength-trained to gain massive amounts of muscle, did you ever think that those fit and strong players were considered overweight?

Body mass index (BMI) is a number calculated by dividing one’s weight (kg) by height squared (m). The CDC rates a BMI of 18.5-24.9 to be “normal”, while 25-29.9 is overweight and over 30 is obese. The problem with BMI is that people with high numbers can be in very good shape. Since muscle weighs more than fat, those who have more muscle than the average person will weigh more, thus are considered overweight to obese. BMI is not always an indicator of health.

A recent study by UCLA analyzed over 40,000 people in regards to actual health markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose. They found that nearly half of people considered overweight and a third of obese people were metabolically quite healthy. Also, more than a third of those with “normal” BMI were metabolically unhealthy.

Proposed rules would allow employers to penalize employees on their health insurance if certain health criteria, including BMI, are not met. Those athletic type people could be potentially overcharged for no reason. Using BMI as the primary indicator of healthiness has 75 million Americans mislabeled as healthy or unhealthy, with nearly 35 million being labeled as overweight and 20 million as obese. Focusing on health markers like blood pressure is a better way to rate to determine one’s level of health.
Khan, Amina. “BMI mislabels 54 million Americans as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’, study says.” Science. Los Angeles Times, 4 Feb 2016. Web. 7 Feb 2016.

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