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  • Nivriti Adnani

The BMI System: The Inaccurate Measurement of Health

The BMI or the Body Mass Index is a method of measuring a person to determine his health, by giving an estimate of body fat. It gives an accurate reading to tell if that person's weight is ideal with reference to his height. Are you sure it does?

The BMI was created by Adolphe Quetelet, a mathematician, astrologer and statistician. He was a eugenicist, and he believed in improving the genetic composition of the human race by separating people with ‘undesirable characteristics’ like disabilities. In his search to find the ideal man, he created the BMI, to eliminate people who were even slightly overweight.

He collected data primarily from European men and didn’t review many women or people of colour. Moreover, he did not intend for the index to be used to measure health, especially since he was not a doctor.

Today, health insurance companies use the BMI to charge people with a higher number, a higher rate, claiming obesity increases the risk for heart diseases. Recent scientific studies however, say that it’s not that simple.

So, is it accurate? Yes, it is an accurate estimate of body fat, for the most part. It fails to account for the higher body fat percent in women's bodies and for body composition, age, genetics, cultural diversity and muscle mass. Someone having high muscle mass is much healthier than someone with the same BMI but low muscle mass. Another flaw of it, is that numerous doctors don’t consider medical history and jump to conclusions based on patients’ BMI, which leads to misdiagnosis. An index considering waist size is more accurate to understand if someone is obese. Even then, it causes discrimination against fat people and encourages eating disorders.

Further, the BMI is exclusive to one's ethnicity. A study in the Netherlands shows that Indians had a higher body fat percentage even at a lower BMI. Thus, in many countries including India, the average or healthy BMI score has been adjusted to fit their race.

In conclusion, the BMI system of measurement is not all that accurate when measuring body fat and completely erroneous when it comes to determining health. This system needs to be bid goodbye, because all it does is misdiagnose patients, create confusion and let a eugenicist from 200 years ago negatively affect lives today!

The BMI Myth

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