Study: High BMIs may not indicate unhealthiness has long been a critic of the notion of BMI.

The media release is below.


High BMIs may not indicate unhealthiness
Health sciences

Approximately 75 million US adults may be misclassified as cardiometabolically healthy or unhealthy when using Body Mass Index (BMI) categories as the main indicator of health, reports research published in the International Journal of Obesity this week. The authors argue that policymakers should consider the unintended consequences of relying solely on BMI as a measure of health when determining policy.

New rules proposed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would allow employers to penalise employees up to 30% of health insurance costs if they fail to meet certain ‘health’ criteria, such as a specified BMI. However, this policy carries with it the assumption that a higher BMI uniformly indicates that individuals must be in poor health.

Using blood pressure, insulin resistance, C-reactive protein data and triglyceride, cholesterol and glucose counts from 40,402 nationally representative individuals aged over 18, A. Janet Tomiyama and colleagues compared cardiometabolic health (the risk of diabetes and heart disease) to BMI. The authors found that nearly half of overweight individuals, approximately 29% of obese individuals, and 16% of very obese individuals, as categorised by BMI, were cardiometabolically healthy. In contrast, over 30% of individuals whose BMI was considered ‘normal’ were found to be cardiometabolically unhealthy.

The authors suggest that while BMI may be seen as a quick, convenient and inexpensive marker for health, its use as an indicator may have detrimental consequences for the health and wellbeing of heavier individuals.

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