Body mass index (BMI) has been used by the World Health Organization (WHO) since the early 1980’s to calculate obesity statistics.  BMI values vary from one country to another.  In fact, in 1988 the United States brought their definitions in line with the WHO lowering the original normal weight of 27.8 to 25.  So, literally in the blink of an eye millions of Americans became classified as overweight according to BMI standards.  At that time most Americans hadn’t heard of BMI and were not concerned about it’s usage among the medical and insurance communities.

However, today it has become more widely understood by the general public due to mass media attention.  It can be disconcerting for many to learn that the BMI chart lists them as overweight, or worse, obese.  So, here are the facts and what you need to know about your overall health picture, not just BMI.

The BMI formula measures the correlation between a person’s body weight and height—assuming the person has a normal body composition.  It is a quick, easy unit of measurement which is why it has become widely adopted.  However, therein lies the problem with BMI, it is only one unit of measurement regarding healthy body weight. 

The BMI calculations do not take into consideration a person’s overall body composition, which is a much better indicator of health.  For instance, a man who is 5’ 7” tall weighing 187 pounds would have a BMI of 29.3, which is listed as ‘overweight’ on the weight status chart.  However, this same man’s body composition is 13.8% which is very, low body fat percentage.  So, for people who have a lot of muscle mass and are shorter they will always be listed as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ on a BMI chart. 

The reverse is also true.  Many people are listed with a healthy BMI, but when tested for body composition have a high percentage of body fat.  While, BMI definitely has its merits for quick determination of health is not specific to any particular individual.  If you want a true picture of your own health a high-quality body composition test is best.  Combine this with simple measurements to start a good baseline when starting any program to improve your health or lose weight.