The Courier Mail of Australia has reviewed a new health report that raises serious questions about the usefulness of the the popular BMI calculator as measure of healthy weight and concludes that BMI calculators have falsely labelled many people of healthy weight as “obese.”
“A study into the size and shape of women aged 18-44 has found that almost one-third of participants were miscalculated as obese using the BMI calculator alone, highlighting the need for body measurements, percentage body fat and muscle mass to be introduced into testing.”
This recent study by the University of Newcastle recommends a variety of other measures be considered and the public be educated more about the inadequacy of the BMI calculator. Amanda Patterson, an accredited practicing dietitian and the leader of the University of Newcastle research team, explained the conclusions of the BMI report.
“There were significant numbers that were classified in the overweight BMI category that were actually within the guidelines for percentage body fat and others that were in the healthy BMI range that were ‘under-fat’, highlighting the fact that we need to use more accurate measures to assess body composition when looking at the relationships with health outcomes.”
As LiveScience explains, the BMI “calculation, which dates back to the 1800s, is a mathematical formula that divides body mass by the square of height.”
However, more evidence has been collected to support the claims that BMI is very misleading, perhaps dangerously so, for several groups of people including the elderly, people who have lost muscle mass due to injury or illness, and athletes.
There are a plethora of BMI mobile apps for health conscious people that have become increasingly popular that prioritize BMI calculators as an indicator of overall health. LiveScience has recently compiled a list of the best BMI calculators available as online apps.
Public health programs have used BMI data to justify loudly advertising in several countries for reducing what has been termed by some to be an “obesity epidemic.” Some of those programs have been aimed at reducing what has been termed “obesity” in young children.
Studies like this one call into question the validity of the BMI data and statistics used to determine what types of health intervention, if any, are necessary for healthy people that may have been mislabeled as obese by BMI calculators.
This important study questioning BMI calculators may lead to changes in the way we discuss obesity and health. The results of the report, “The Average Australian Woman: A cross-sectional analysis of the body shape and size of Australian women,” will be presented this week at the Dietitians Association of Australia national conference.
[Photo: Sean Gallup/ Getty Images]