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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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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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...
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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