If you’ve ever been for a checkup at the doctor’s then undoubtedly you will have heard of BMI (body mass index) but is it the best way to measure health?
What is BMI?
BMI stands for Body Mass Index, and was developed in the 1830’s by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, to decide whether a person was under or overweight using a very simple calculation:
BMI = Weight(kg) / Height(m)²
Which gives a single number which is then plotted against this chart:
Benefits of BMI
The main benefit of using this index is that it is simple, all you need is a weight scale, tape measure and (if you’re feeling lazy) a calculator, and you will know roughly which category you are in.
Flaws of BMI
Because of the age and simplicity of the Body Mass Index, there are a number of flaws that come with it:
It’s too simple -The simplicity of the BMI is also one of its drawbacks, because humans are very complex and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it is very difficult to take two numbers and decide whether a person is healthy or not.
It doesn’t account for body composition – because muscle is much denser than fat, if someone like a bodybuilder or rugby player (individuals that have a higher lean muscle percentage) were to use the BMI, it would tell them they are overweight, even though they may be in peak physical condition, and that is because the BMI only takes in your overall weight and height.
It’s old – the Body Mass Index was created in the 1830’s and very few changes have been made to it since then.
Okay, so we’ve looked briefly at BMI, but what about the alternative?
What is WHtR?
Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR) or Waist-to-Stature Ratio (WSR), is a relatively new way of using simple body measurements to decipher an individual’s risk of obesity-related diseases. With WHtR, you measure the circumference of your waist (centrally between your bottom ribs and the top of your hips) and plot it against your height:
WHtR = Waist circumference / Height
(Make sure you’re using the same measuring system for both, i.e. cm/in)
And the resulting value is then plotted against this table to see where you rank:
Benefits of using WHtR
As with the BMI, the simplicity of the Waist to Height Ratio is a huge positive factor. The WHtR is also deemed to be more accurate in warning against obesity-related diseases, as there is a stronger link between waist circumference and obesity compared to overall weight and obesity.
Flaws of WHtR
Really, there is only one main flaw with WHtR:
Everybody is different – some people may have a small about of excess fat but it is all stored around their waist, this is common with those that drink a lot of alcohol – the infamous Beer-Belly – whereas some people may have a lot of excess fat that is stored in other parts of their body – women are more likely to store excess fat in their thighs and hips. Neither of which can be accounted for by simply taking a single measurement.
Overall, WHtR has recently proven to be more successful than BMI in warning against obesity-related diseases, due to the link between waist circumference and obesity. But there are still many other variables that impact our health, so be sure to do a variety of tests and get professional help when you are undergoing a health-check.
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