In the 19th century, the body mass index (BMI) concept was introduced by Adolphe Quetelet, Belgian Statistician. His Quetelet Index is still used to measure BMI today. A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese, and over 25 is overweight. Today, most individuals are treated as obese based on body mass index. Is BMI accurate for measuring obesity? Continue reading to learn about the pros and cons of using BMI for obesity. 

Is BMI a Reliable Indicator of Obesity?

You can measure body fat in various ways and one of the methods is body mass index. It gives a global view of one’s health and predicts the risk of cholesterol, hypertension, joint problems, etc. Moreover, individuals with high BMI have an increased risk of cancer and chronic diseases. Statisticians use the BMI index to know the obesity level of the population to organize targeted prevention campaigns. 

There are a lot of pros and cons of using BMI for obesity. Why BMI may not be the best measure for obesity? In some instances, body mass index calculation has proven inaccurate. It does not consider age, ethnicity, gender, physical activities, and sports. Additionally, BMI is unable to differentiate muscle mass, bone density, and body fat. That’s why, it is considered as a reference index only. A few limitations of BMI for determining obesity are specified below: 

  • It incorporates height, weight and does not consider age or sex. BMI may not give a detailed report to determine if a person’s weight is healthy. 
  • Unable to use in public health studies therefore combined with other measurement tools.
  • It only provides clues about the patient’s health state, but a doctor must make a full diagnosis. 
  • BMI cannot indicate a person’s health state in some stages of life like childhood, pregnancy, adolescence, etc. 

All these are some cons of using BMI for obesity. 

Alternatives to BMI for Assessing Obesity

It is easy to decide if a person is underweight, obese, overweight, or normal through body mass index. To calculate BMI, you must take your weight in Kg and divide it by the square of your height. However, it ignores other things like muscle, bone mass, age, sex, etc. So, BMI has some limitations when it comes to analyzing your health. Now, let’s look at some of the body mass index alternatives. 

Body Adiposity Index (BAI)

It is used to check your body fat level depending on the size of your height and hips. In contrast to BMI, it doesn’t use your body weight for calculation. This method is similar to the body fat percentage of adult women and men. 

Hydrostatic Weighing 

This technique helps measure your body density and composition. The density of fat mass and fat-free mass remains constant in the hydrostatic weighing method. 

Waist Circumference (WC)

It allows you to describe your central obesity. Waist circumference measurement provides the right indication of abdominal fat and finds out the risks of other weight-related conditions. 

Apart from these, relative fat mass, waist-to-hip ratio, and more are other methods to measure obesity. You must be aware of the pros and cons of using BMI for obesity. Some individuals are overweight but have no risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol. They must follow regular exercise and a healthy diet to prevent additional weight gain.