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Does BMI Work for Every Body Type? A doctor answers.

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by Kevin Hwang, M.D.

Q. Is it true that the BMI chart works for most body types?
—Beth, Alaska

A. A high body-mass index indicates you’re overweight. However, it doesn’t determine whether that weight is due to fat or muscle—or where any extra fat is. Given these limitations, the BMI is still a good indicator for most people.


DOES THE BMI WORK FOR PEOPLE WITH A LOT OF MUSCLE?

Extremely muscular people may have enough extra muscle, without extra fat, to push their BMI into the overweight range. Most people don’t fall into this category.


DOES THE BMI WORK FOR EVERY BODY SHAPE?

Yes, it does tell whether someone with an apple or pear shape, for example, is overweight. However, it doesn't fully determine disease risk because it doesn’t reveal where the fat is.

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For people with a BMI between 25 and 35 (overweight to obese), a larger waist (more than 40 inches for men or 35 for women) adds additional risk on top of that associated with the BMI alone. Unfortunately, carrying the extra fat in the hip area doesn't reduce risk; it just doesn’t raise it.


Board-certified internist KEVIN HWANG, M.D., is an assistant professor of medicine with the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and co-director of UT Weight Management.

Last updated and/or approved: April 2010. Original article appeared in July/August 2008 former print magazine. Bio current as of August 2008. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

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This isn't right.
written by Kyle , April 01, 2016

The doctor here doesn't know what he is talking about, I am 5'11" and 182 pounds. This puts my BMI at 25.4 which is in the overweight range. I don't work out so not much muscle, I am very thin. You can see my stomach muscles without flexing (and that is without them being muscular from working out). I have very little fat on my body. I look and feel very healthy. However, according to the BMI I need to lose weight. This is ridiculous, if I lose weight I will be unhealthy, am I supposed to starve myself? Sorry doc, but you are wrong, I am about as average looking as you can get and a thin guy and apparently overweight, HaHa, I don't think so.
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bmi ?
written by ajb , April 14, 2014

im 182 cm 96 Kg ... sport everyday, no fat almost ... bmi 29 ... anyone could explain ...?
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BMI Is trash
written by miles Ballaw , January 24, 2014

I am 6 foot 2 and was heavily muscled. BMI had me at overly obese. so I shed down to 214.I look insane now my head looks huge. and according to BMI I still weigh 24 pounds overweight to lose..I'm scared I feel weak and jittery.Iv'e lost so much muscle I look like a basketball player or a maybe a pro tennis player. when is BMI area to cut off?
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...
written by David Robbins-San Luis Ibispo, California , July 26, 2013

I am 58, lifted weights for 40 years. I am 5'9" and 188 lbs. this puts me in the overweight category, although my body fat is 12%. I have a 32" waist, 39" hips and 54" shoulders. I have large bones, as measured by my wrist circumference. BMI is a useful measurement for non athletic people but is a false indicator of healthy body weight for everyone, specifically muscular people. If I weighed the recommended weight for my height(165lbs), I would be rail thin. It appeals me that most people posting here who are agreeing with BMI are doing so because a doctor said so. Spending 4 months in the hospital for a heart valve replacement and stroke led me to realize that most doctors know little about exert size and nutrition. I suggest that people should do research and listen to their body before blindly following the doctors orders. Don't be sheep.
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Bogus
written by Georgina , February 13, 2013

BMI is definitely bogus and I can prove it. I have been checking my body fat % every 6 months for about 4 years now. One year ago, I weighed 127 with 26% body fat, and a BMI of 23.5. I just redid this information after a year of heavy exercising which included some weight lifting. Now, I weigh 145 with 26% body fat (the exact same), and a BMI of 27.4.

So, obviously BMI is not an indicator of body fat or health. Overall, over 3 years, I have lost 33 pounds of fat weight and gained about 24 in muscle. Yet, my BMI put me in Normal category before I gained the muscle and now am considered to be in the Overweight category. LOL. It doesn't just not work for "some extreme sets of people", i.e. body builders/super athletes, it just doesn't indicate what it is professed to at all.

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In 2012, there should be much better measures
written by Colby , December 02, 2012

I'm 5'8, 190 lbs and wear a size 32 waist. I am overweight apparently. Maybe i should just stop going to the gym and lose all of my muscle mass so my body fat percentage will be higher, yet I will weigh less. It's just soooooooo outdated.
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Yes, BMI Does Work for Most People
written by LA , August 25, 2012

BMI is accepted and promoted as a weight/health indicator by leading medical organizations from the American Academy of Family Physicians to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's certainly not "almost always wrong," as one commenter says, and you should thank your doctor for bringing it up, not fire him or her! LOL!

I'm a woman, and BMI works for me quite well, as it does for other people I've seen. As the doctor says, there are exceptions, but most people can use it as a reliable guide to whether you're hitting a good health mark.

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BMI
written by Steve , August 23, 2012

BMI is a totally screwed up indicator, and is nearly always wrong. The doctor here is completely full of it, it's VERY EASY for a muscular man or a woman with large breast sto be tagged as "overweight" by BMI.

There are a lot of people with weight problems, but the right way to determine if you are carrying too much fat is to measure BODY FAT PERCENTAGE. The problem is that's more expensive and difficult than standing a patient on a scale then labeling them fat based off a stupid formula. That requires the doctor and healthcare system to actually do real tests and diagnostic work; which is what insurance companies and many doctors want to avoid at all costs. Easier to just call people fat and harass them about their weight, and BMI is a perfect way to do that, even if it's totally wrong.

People need to stop using BMI; just ignore it completely. If you're doctor brings it up, fire him/her and find another one. If you're really concerned about excess fat, insist on getting your body fat percentage tested.

Otherwise, you shouldn't need a number to motivate you to stay in shape. If you're feeling lathargic and don't like the way you look, eat less and move more. It's that easy.


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Not particularly reliable...
written by Kaitie , August 06, 2012

I am 20 years old and am probably 10kg heavier than i should be. However the BMI calculator gave me a 29, classing me as obese.
I am certainly not obese, but i do have naturally large breasts (a size F cup), making me heavier than the average person.
For women the BMI is just another way to feel bad about how you naturally are.

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Flabelos UK
written by Flabelos UK , July 16, 2012

I have recently joined a gym and have been working out for the past 4 weeks. My weight and height are 235 lbs and 6'2" I have a larger then average body type from working in construction so the BMI is defiantly off a bit for me. I feel my ideal weight would be about two hundred.
Flabelos UK

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