You have all probably heard of the Body Mass Index (BMI). It is easy to calculate:
In metric units: mass (kg) / height x height (cm.)
In USC units: 703 x (mass (lbs.))/ (height x height (in.))
For instance mine is: 75 / 1.80×1.80 = 75 / 3.24 = 23.14
There is an easier way to calculate this; just go to
Given the importance attributed to the BMI, is it really an accurate way to measure something that has profound health implications.
I don’t think so; to start with:
- It doesn’t distinguish between fats and muscle,
- It doesn’t distinguish between male and female
It is, simply, a relationship between your height and weight.
You are categorized as:
Normal, if you’re BMI is between 18.5 and 25
Overweight, if you’re BMI is between 25 and 30, and
Obese, if you’re BMI is greater than 30.
Do you think this is a valid way to measure health?
BMI does not measure relative proportions of bone, muscle and fat in your body. Muscle is 18 % more dense than fat, and bone is denser than muscle.
If you are strong boned, have good muscle tone and low fat, you could be labeled as “overweight” by BMI standards.
In fact, this happened to me a few years ago. I had to have a “physical” as required by my health insurance, and complied. My BMI was above 25, and the young doctor said that I was overweight. I started laughing and told him that my percentage body fat was below 10 %, and suggested that he take a look at me rather than the BMI number. He was embarrassed and got the point.
Another shortcoming of the BMI is that it doesn’t take into account the type of fats in your body, and how they are distributed. Fat distribution is an important factor in determining your health.
Research suggests that deep belly fat is more harmful than subcutaneous fat.
Visceral fat, pictured above, is fat around your abdominal organs, and increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Apparently, fatty tissue generates large amounts of free radicals and these “invade” the critical organs in the stomach cavity.
Thus, people with visceral fat might be considered healthy by their BMI, but might be at a higher risk of developing health problems because of this.
A recent survey showed that 30 % of people with “healthy” BMI scores, were, in fact, not healthy at all based on their other vital signs.
It was also found that 11 % of people with an “overweight” BMI had normal body fat.
BMI also does not take sex and age of the person into account. Males and females have completely different body structures and physiques.
Men have denser and stronger bones and higher muscle mass compared to women.
Women have greater amounts of total body fat than men with an equivalent BMI.
Here is an alternative to BMI
Waist circumference measurement, can give you an indication of abdominal fat you are carrying.
Women: waist circumference should be less than 90 cm (35 in.)
Men: waist circumference should be less than 101 cm (40 in.)
If you eat properly, and exercise; or better still have a healthy life style, you can use the above measures just to slap yourself on the back.
That’s it for now; see you next time.