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  • ​BMI Should Not Be Used For Individuals


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Thursday, April 07, 2016 10:06 am Email this article

    Body mass index or BMI is the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in centimeters. To calculate BMI using pounds and inches, multiply the product by 703. The BMI was invented by Belgian statistician Adolphe Quatelet in the 19th century for use in population studies. He never intended it to be used for individual people, because it says nothing about body shape or composition.

    ​Before 1990 doctors and insurance companies used tables of weight versus height, one for men and another for women, based on simple actuarial statistics, to determine who was at risk. In 1998 the NIH went over to BMI in order to present info on both sexes in the same brightly colored diagrams. You saw then, too, the beautiful food pyramids that were also BS supreme. 

    The healthy range for BMI was stated to be 18.5-25, not based on any science at all. No science because the financial backing for the anti-obesity campaign came from the pharmaceutical companies who hoped to profit by it.  Before 1980 all the funding of the NIH came from taxpayer dollars. After that, as the government sank into debt from the Cold War, recession and Reagan tax-cuts and as a result backed off from funding the arts and sciences, private industry saw the chance  to escape regulation and seize control of scientific research. Now half of NIH funding comes from private industry. Industry cares about profit, not about truth.

    Three studies show that the group with the longest average life span is not the “normal” group BMI 18-25, but instead the ”overweight” group BMI 25-30.  The best such study is Flegal et al. 2005. Late last year I heard the first rumblings of dissatisfaction with the BMI; there is a movement afoot to replace it with something else. In my 2005 book Life Between Meals I suggested using the product of BMI and the waist-to-hip ratio and having separate standards for men and women. We will see what they come up with . . . or if anyone notices.

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