It all started with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission imposing a new rule utilizing BMI (Body Mass Index) as a classification guide to allow employers to raise insurance premiums for employees who don’t meet a specified BMI.

40,420 individuals were used to conduct a study to determine how accurate BMI is at gauging metabolic health.  Data collected included blood pressure, triglyceride, cholesterol, glucose, insulin resistance and C-reactive protein.  The data was then compared to BMI for each individual.  What did they find?

According to a BMI chart, almost half of these individuals were considered overweight.  Of those, 29% were considered obese but guess what?  They had healthy cardiometabolic measurements.  Even 16% had healthy metabolic rates even though their BMI was over 35.

As if that wasn’t enough, 30% of the individuals tested who showed a healthy BMI measurement were found to have an unhealthy cardiometabolic health.

According to researchers “Using BMI categories as the main indicator of health, an estimated 74,936,678 adults in the US are misclassified as cardiometabolically unhealthy OR cardiometbolically health (when they aren’t).

In other words, BMI isn’t something you can zero in on for a classification diagnosis and “Policymakers should consider the unintended consequences of relying solely on BMI…”

What Is BMI?

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height.  Here are some commonly known BMI facts:

  • Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of relative size based on the mass and height of an individual.
  • The Quetelet Index was devised by Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian mathematician, astronomer and statistician, in 1832. It was later termed “body mass index” in 1972 by Ancel Keys.
  • Factors such as age, sex, ethnicity and muscle mass are not accounted for in BMI.
  • For adults 20 years and older, BMI is interpreted by using standard weight status categories that are the same for all ages, and for both men and women.
  • For children and adolescents between 2-20 years old, BMI is interpreted relative to a child’s age and sex.
  • BMI is a reasonable indicator of body fat for both adults and children.
  • Because BMI does not measure body fat directly, it should not be used as a diagnostic tool.
  • BMI should be used as a measure to track weight status in populations and as a screening tool to identify potential weight problems in individuals.
  • Other measures of body fat, such as skinfold thicknesses, bioelectrical impedance, underwater weighing and dual energy X-ray absorption, maybe more accurate than BMI.
BMI Chart

Click this BMI chart to view larger.