If you feel like you’ve been seeing an increasing number of claims that BMI is flawed as a measurement of health and wellness, you’re not wrong. The body mass index is far from perfect, and a growing number of medical professionals are reducing their use of the measurement or are abandoning it altogether.
If BMI is Flawed, Why is It Still Used?
It’s true that BMI is flawed. It isn’t appropriate for certain age groups such as children and seniors. It also provides misleading scores for people under a certain height or over a certain height, when using the traditional formula to calculate it. It can lead shorter people to think they are thinner than they are and can mislead taller people into thinking they are heavier than they are.
Still, many licensed healthcare professionals – and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) itself – continue to use it as one of several factures to determine if a person’s bodyweight is within a healthy range.
The reason the measure is still being used even though BMI is flawed is that there isn’t a simple alternative to replace it. Therefore, many doctors have chosen to continue using it as one of several factors guiding their recommendations, while keeping factors such as age, low or high heights, and even athletic builds in mind.
Most doctors are very aware that BMI is flawed, so they choose to use it when they feel that it will provide helpful guidance overall. It is rarely ever meant to be used as a single determining factor of a patient’s healthy or unhealthy bodyweight but is instead meant to be combined with other measurements for a more complete overview.
Where Did the Body Mass Index Come From?
The body mass index was first created in the 1830s by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, a mathematician, statistician, sociologist and astronomer from Belgium. Even though the BMI is flawed, it continues to be used 160 years later.
It is a calculation that takes a person’s weight in kilograms and divides it by their height in meters, squared.
Even though many doctors continue to use body mass index among their measurements of a person’s body, the number recommending that their patients do so is shrinking. The reason is that while they have the knowledge and equipment to combine a flawed BMI with a number of other helpful body measurements, the average person doesn’t have that knowledge and risks misinterpreting the score they receive.