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Is There A Better Scale Than BMI?

Is There A Better Scale Than BMI?

I had a real eye opener a few weeks ago.

Women I knew, women I always thought were beautiful, have always believed they were overweight. It didn’t matter how much they worked out or how little they ate; they were still convinced they were overweight. And it wasn’t because they had anorexia or any other kind of eating disorder that skewed their perceptions. No, they believed they were overweight because the BMI said so.

The BMI or Body Mass Index is a tool that was originally conceived in the 1850s as a rough assessment of body fat. The formula is simple: BMI = Height / Body Mass Squared. The resulting number is applied to a scale to determine if people are overweight, underweight, or just right. The calculation was intended to be used on a large population to assess the overall health ratios of entire groups of people. 
Due to its simplicity, however, the BMI has come to be used as an everyday tool for individuals to measure their weight – a use for which it is often inappropriate, since BMI fails to take into account body shape, muscle mass, physical shape, race, sex, and many other factors that would indicate whether a person is actually a healthy weight.

U.S. researchers have proposed a new scale to replace the flawed BMI: The Body Adiposity Index, or BAI. The new scale depends on height and hip measurements to determine overall body fat as opposed to simply weight.

The equation for the Body Adiposity Index is as follows:

Hip circumference / (Height X √Height) – 18

Researchers arrived at this equation after studying a group of 1,700 Mexican Americans and determining the factors that related to overall body fat as determined by actual X-ray measurements.  So far, the equation has held up in a second study of 200 African Americans. Further studies are needed to see if it will apply to Caucasians.

With obesity and obesity-related disease on the rise, having more and better tools to determine one’s optimal weight – and health – are crucial. So while I don’t relish the thought of having to measure my hips on a regular basis, if it gives people a better indication of whether they need to hit the gym – or whether they don’t – then I’m all for it.

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Photo credit: National Institutes of Health (Public Domain)

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47 comments

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1:01AM PST on Mar 9, 2011

If I was too fat, I'd never make it as a singer and cause leader.

6:56PM PST on Mar 8, 2011

I hope so, because my BMI is terrible! LOL

5:43AM PST on Mar 8, 2011

the BMI requires that I be a stick...i never want to weigh that again in my life looked like i belonged in ethiopia.


Best health advice, keep moving sit less, drink 8 glasses of water more if you are overweight. Don't stress.

I find my most stressed time is the time between making my dr appointment and the visit. Just hearing the dr. talk is stressful. It's like taking a test. It sucks. They suck and most nurses do not take blood pressure properly.

3:23AM PST on Mar 7, 2011

Various civilizations have set various prototypes. Stop worrying about your weight (unless, of course, it is too much or too little) and start worrying about your health condition. After all, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

12:40AM PST on Mar 6, 2011

Patricia R. I like your comment. I have thought the very same thing during all my adult years - yes, we are simply too short!

2:56PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

yes, the better scale is called acceptance...of the fact that beauty, health and 'acceptability' comes in various shapes and sizes.

2:33PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

I don't stess oit about my weight! I just try to eat healthy and get some exercise because I have fibromalgia and arthritis in my lower back and joint pain from having had juvenile arthritis as a child, so it is tricky for me to exercise at times!

2:20PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

My BMI makes me sound terribly obese, but as a professional dancer, and as a past competitive athlete, my muscle mass is extremely high for my height, my stamina is fantastic, and BMI is a very poor indication of my overall physical fitness. As someone with an extreme hourglass figure, (very wide hips, very narrow waist) I can tell you that BAI would be just as bad as BMI at indicating my personal health and fitness level. Scientists need to just admit that the best way to measure how fat someone is, is to...(drum roll....) measure their fat!!! It's not a hard thing to do at all, but it is a little more involved than stepping on a scale. It involves the use of either a water-displacement test in a specially calibrated pool, or (alternatively, and less accurately) using calipers to measure the fat layer at many points around the body.

2:16PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

Does it really matter, most people know when they should gain or loose weight.

9:46AM PST on Mar 5, 2011

There is no perfect scale or set of rules for measuring a person weight or size. do any take in consideration body type such as The Ectomorph, the Mesomorph, the Endomorph? No. We should be far more concerned with health rather than appearances. I am a Ectomorph I struggle to keep weight on not off I am 6' tall and the most I have ever weighed was a 160lbs. In order to get there I worked out two hours a day and maintained a calorie intake of 4500 a day but this was very stressful to my body. The stress ultimately made me unhealthy so I stopped I still exercise but I am no longer concerned with looking like a mesomorph. I am a healthy 145-150 lbs

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