Is BMI a Useful Assessment?

Is calculating Body Mass Index a right way to know the health of a person. Read the article and think again...

Sheela Krishnaswamy
Sheela Krishnaswamy
Sheela Krishnaswamy is a Registered Dietitian with 38 years of professional experience in the clinical, corporate and communication spaces. She was trained in India and overseas. She is active in national and international dietetic associations. She has had a media presence for the last 25 years. Formerly, a successful nutrition entrepreneur, an editor, a public speaker and a blogger, currently she works independently as Nutrition & Wellness Consultant, Advisor, Anchor, Writer and Corporate Trainer.

Last Updated on November 24, 2022 by Neelam Singh

It’s common knowledge that body weight is an important indicator of health status. Body Mass Index (BMI) which is calculated using the height and weight of a person is probably the most popular way to assess whether or not the person’s weight is in the normal (healthy) range. But is BMI assessment enough? 

BMI doesn’t distinguish between fat mass and fat-free mass like muscle, etc.  Indians are genetically tuned to have a TOFI (thin outside, fat inside) problem. People affected by this problem have an increased amount of adipose tissue surrounding the internal organs, which increases the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

A person who has a normal BMI is likely to have an above normal body fat, and vice versa. Older adults tend to have more body fat than younger adults for an equivalent BMI, women carry more body fat than men, and muscular individuals may have a higher BMI because of increased muscle mass. So, BMI by itself might not be a complete anthropometric assessment. 

Other parameters that add value to anthropometry are body fat and waist measurement. Skinfold thickness and bioimpedance are simple tools to measure body fat. 

Waist circumference is the simplest and most popular way to check abdominal obesity. The excess fat around the middle is an important measure for health status and or risk for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), even independent of BMI. Similarly, waist to hip ratio also is an indicator for risk of development of NCDs. 

WHO has given the BMI cut-off for Asians as 23 kg/m2. Researchers have suggested a cut-off value of 85 cm for men’s waist circumference and 80 cm for women’s waist circumference in Indians. 

Measure your BMI, waist circumference and body fat to better understand your body composition and your risk for disease. 

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