Body Mass Index: Drawbacks as Health Indicator

With non-communicable diseases putting a strain on the health & productivity capacity of nations worldwide, (particularly those with tertiary-quaternary industry sectors dominating national economies), the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a tool & health indicator used by medical professionals and likewise, specific for giving insight into ones health status in respect to bodyweight. Similarly, popular fitness apps record & communicate BMI figures to the consumer. Thus highlighting the widescale confidence of using the BMI as health indicator.

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While the BMI in our view has merit as an health indicator, it also have drawbacks.

In this article, we will explore these drawbacks and present considerations to be of value to the general consumer, and/or health-conscious individual.

History of Body Mass Index

“…the mid-19th century Belgian polymath, Adolphe Quetelet, under the premise that ‘the transverse growth of man is less than the vertical’, derived the function most used today to characterize relative body weight, that is, the ratio of weight (kg) over height (m) squared. It was in the 1972 article that Ancel Keys gave Quetelet’s calculation its modern name, body mass index (BMI), along with evidence to support its current wide usage.”

Blackburn, H. & Jacobs, D. Commentary: Origins and evolution of body mass index (BMI): continuing saga International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 43, Issue 3, June 2014, Pages 665–669.


Uses of BMI

As an indicator of heath, or ill-health for that matter, using literary support, the body mass index uses include: “…strongly correlated with the gold-standard methods for measuring body fat. And it is an easy way for clinicians to screen who might be at greater risk of health problems due to their weight.”

 Why Use BMI?| Obesity Prevention Source| Harvard School of Public Health Retrieved, February 17, 2023.


Drawback of BMI

“The clinical limitations of BMI should be considered. BMI is a surrogate measure of body fatness because it is a measure of excess weight rather than excess body fat. Factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, and muscle mass can influence the relationship between BMI and body fat. Also, BMI does not distinguish between excess fat, muscle, or bone mass, nor does it provide any indication of the distribution of fat among individuals. Considerations & Suggestions (for the active individual).”

Body Mass Index: Considerations for Practitioners Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Retrieved, February 17, 2023


Takeaway & Suggestions

Benefit from our programs, or enroll as a member of our personal training system. Click image to view them. Or email for individualized recommendation

There is no doubt that the body mass index has merit as a tool that provides measure in respect to our bodyweight, and our risk of developing diseases associated with weight such as obesity. However, with the BMI not providing:

  • an indication of the percentage of fatness that make up our bodies,
  • nor the percentage & location of bodyfat in our bodies (visceral vs subcutaneous fat),
  • nor differentiating muscle weight from fat weight…

using the body mass index exclusive from body fat percentage and waist to hip ratio (as indicators of your health status), is not totally beneficially to you as a client, or as a patient.


About The Author

Oshane Bryant: BSc Geology, Geography Minor; ACE CPT since 2012; Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) Accelerator Graduate-2018 cohort; Licensed KUKIBO Martial Arts & Self Defense, Senior Instructor; OB Fitness Founder & Managing Director.

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