February 4, 2016

The BMI myth challenged in new research

NPR - Employers are pushing workers to get in shape and become more fit through workplace wellness programs. But if employers use body mass index as a yardstick for health, then that could unfairly penalize millions of Americans, a study finds.

Doctors contend that BMI's usefulness ends at a rough indication that a patient should be checked for things like high blood pressure or cholesterol.

Pro athletes often have BMIs that could get them in trouble with a workplace wellness plan. Their muscle mass can boost them into the obese range, even though they're healthy and physically fit. Based on players' height and weight on the NFL website, there is no Denver Broncos player with a normal BMI, calculated at 18.5 to 24.9.

On average, the Broncos' BMIs falls into the obese range, at 30 or greater. Panthers players will want to avoid getting tackled by Sylvester Williams in this Sunday's Superbowl. At 6'2" and 313 pounds, he has a BMI of 40.

And that mismatch between BMI and health is true not just for athletes, according to the study, published on Thursday in the International Journal of Obesity. It looked at the proportion of healthy individuals by BMI and six other heart and metabolic measures like blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin resistance.

Out of a national database of over 40,000 people, about 70 percent of people with normal weight BMIs were in the healthy range for all the other measures. So were 47 percent of people with an overweight BMI, 30 percent of those considered obese, and 16 percent of those labeled extremely obese.

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