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

professor-teaching-math.jpg

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.

Newsletter

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 is nonsense.
written by Harley , May 30, 2012

While a person who is obese will have a high BMI, a high BMI is not an indication of obesity - nor health in general.

I know people say, "Oh, if you look like Arnold Swarzernegger you may still be obese with the BMI." Of course, your average person doesn't have the body shape of Arnie. But that was the point - the BMI was invented by a Belgian mathematician, 200 years ago, as a quick hack to cheaply estimate average body sizes and approximate obesity in large populations. NOT the individual person. So it might work out for guessing if a school on average is obese, but it doesn't work out how healthy one student is.

If we can get a better result without using the BMI, but still easily... why don't we?

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Votes: +10

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Apple shape and BMI 19
written by Maggie , March 17, 2012

I am 66, height 5'5" and 114 lbs, 19 BMI but waist to hip ratio is in the danger zone. I think the US navy site is more sensible, I have 25.67% body fat according to the US navy site which uses wrist, forearm, waist, hips, height, weight and sex. When my BMI was down to 17 I was still apple shaped but told to gain weight by doctors and nurses.
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Votes: +7

0
just found this article
written by Wrongfully acused , October 29, 2011

I went to see the doc recently and he 'BMI'd' me and I thought; I just do not fit into the BMI system no matter what I do.

I am overweight and I get that I am suffering with poor health (for other reasons) and that has caused my weight to increase.

I have seen a lot of subjective comments made on here that don't really address the problem I have. I am male and my shoulders are approximately 21" across, I'm 5'11", and I am essentially of a heavy build, muscular and larger framed. How is my body shape ever going to fit this model?

It seems we should all fit the average height average build thing; that is great for some, but are we not all unique individuals?

I genuinely care about my health and I worry about my weight, but I feel very despondent when I see a system being abused by, as far as I can see, everyone!


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Archaic Measurement
written by Goldam , October 21, 2011

5"9, 185 pounds

32 inch waist.

I am fairly "built" but I wouldn't put myself at "extremely muscular". I can run consistent 6.5 minute miles.

All of this yet I still get placed at 26 BMI (which is 1 into obese at my height).

This scale is archaic, and there are far better ones to use. You may as well be measuring somebody's skull to get IQ.

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Votes: +13

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The BMI formula is NOT reliable.
written by Joe , September 12, 2011

I'm a 24 year old male, 5'8" and 235 pounds, putting my BMI at 35.7...OBESE! I am in no way obese, I'm a former boxer, I gave up boxing to increse muscle mass, I have alot of muscle, hell in highschool the leg press couldnt hold enough weight for me to "max out". Yet this says I'm obese, I say "No sir, you are wrong!" Lol. The only time my body "jiggles" is when I flex that particular muscle, release and repeat. I eat healthy, have low cholesterol, good blood pressure and this "formula" that alot of doctors say "Can be a good at estimating your body fat.", is a load of crap, my doctor tallied up my BMI and laughed. You would think they would have done away with this nonsense years ago, but alas, "If people see the formula and think it looks scientific enough they will believe it." is still the norm.
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Votes: +2

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I'm proof it's crap
written by Revenwyn , May 15, 2011

I'm 5'4" 38" waist (I have well defined abs though even at that waist size and I can't get smaller), thin hips and butt, toned legs, large boobs (40DDD, and no fat on my back), I CAN SEE MY RIBS, and weigh 180 pounds. This puts me at a 30.9 BMI but through hydrostatic weighing I am only 19% body fat... what's up with this? If it weren't crap it would be accurate.

Oh yes, I bench press 250 pounds, leg press 400... could go up on the leg press but the machine won't take more weight, lol...

And if you missed the "boobs" part, I'm a woman.

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Re: Strange
written by Leigh Ann , February 28, 2011

Hi, Jon. I just put your numbers into the CDC calculator, and it puts you at 0.1 point into overweight (not obese). I put in 173.9 pounds and got "normal." The system says, "For your height, a normal weight range would be from 129 to 174 pounds."

Leigh Ann Otte
Managing Editor, MyFamilyDoctorMag.com

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Votes: -1

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Strange
written by Jon , February 25, 2011

Yeah, i'm 5'10 175 which is just barely n the obese range but, my actual body fat percentage is 10%. I don't really see where I should be obese =P
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Misleading labels
written by A Mom , November 10, 2010

My 16 yr teen son is 5'8" and about 165. He works out and is active but not overly muscular (yet). Looks fine to me; but his BMI says he's "overweight". Yet I can run the weight in the calculator down to 120 lbs which still says "healthy weight". I'm sorry but a 120 lb. teen guy that's 5'8" is going to look like the scrawny "before" picture of the guy at the beach getting sand kicked in his face.
My son already has this self-conscious thing about being "fat", which he is NOT, so this BMI business is NOT going to do him any favors!

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BMI... Bunch of Crap
written by Athlete , February 03, 2010

I'm 29 years old, 5'7" with a 32" waist but weigh 194lbs. My BMI says 30.5 and that I'm obese...??? I have 6 pack abs, cut bi's, tri's, and delt's, play soccer ever weekend, run the 100 in 10.3 seconds...

Obese my arse!!!

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Height Extremes
written by James Hubbard M.D. , January 08, 2010

You're correct. The BMI doesn't work as well for height extremes. Why not ask a health care provider or health club to check your body fat with calipers? This is a simple test that bypasses BMI.

People with stomach fat have higher risks of heart disease than those with hip fat. (Apple shape vs. pear). It is thought the fat is of a different nature.

Thanks for your comments.

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Publisher
www.MyFamilyDoctorMag.com

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Too tall
written by Christian , October 25, 2009

why does waist play such an issue, at 6'7", 255 I am considered overweight though I question the calculations past 6'2" on the tables. I use to be taped in the military at the neck, chest and waist why not use that method, it seems to be more mathmatically correct. Also the BMI needs to be reworked for those on the extreme outsides of the standard deviation.

tall1

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bmi is nonsense for most people.
written by David , September 26, 2009

im a little short for a guy, 5ft 9inches. its a shame but ive learnt to get over it, but weight is almost 90kilos but i work out and have a muscular structure, i wear fitted clothes and look dam good, i run marathons and have less fat around my waist than most people in the ideal category.
i am NOT overly muscular

my BMI shows me as obiest.


yeaa right.



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Good indicator...but not fact
written by Ian Bushte , June 04, 2009

Im 5ft 8 and 11st 11 meaning my BMI is 25.1
This is just in the overweight range, but i have a clear set of abs
My friend is 6ft 2 and 13st 5, meaning he is in the normal weight range, yet he has a beer gut and moobs (sorry m8 :P)
So yeah, it is different for people, but im happy with mine, because it doesnt mean anything, it doesnt go on your CV or stop anything.
BMI is just an indicator
Everyone has some weight they could lose, but that doesnt make us all fat

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BMI is wrong!
written by Kristen , May 18, 2009

Im 5'5" and a 170 pounds..I wear a size 6. Im very healthy and have a lot of muscle and a large body frame but according to BMI calculators Im overweight or obese. Even my doctor thinks BMI calcs are full of crap!
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Bry
written by Bryan Mitchell , April 02, 2009

My BMI says I am overweight. I am a professional bodybuilder and fitness training with six pack abs and striated gluts. My BMI read 27% BF. Way wrong!
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0
...
written by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. , October 14, 2008

Thanks for the comment. You are right that genetics plays a role and that weight loss products don't work long-term.

However, regular exercise and a healthy diet do work. If you regularly exercise for around an hour 5 days a week and include some resistance training, along with eating a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables (cutting out junk food), then you will lose weight and become healthier with less risk for medical problems (heart, knee and hip arthritis, diabetes, hight blood pressure) down the road.

BMI is just a general measure, however it does take into account height. Measuring body-fat is better.

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Bmi missleading
written by :::Unknown::: , October 14, 2008

I find it funny that schools uses BMI
for me bmi is useless cause im 6feet tall and weight about 100kg like my father
but the deal is my father is 6.4 and my mom like 5.8 and her bmi number is like 48 witch says she has high blood presure and danger of heart attack dunno of my father tho

Its Genetics nothing else this bmi should been tossed away years ago but hey its the weight loss industry only hope to sell its non working products :D

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