What you might not know about BMI is that it's actually more than 200 years old. The formula that became the BMI was originally devised by Adolphe Quetelet in the early 1800s in an effort to quantify the “ideal man.” He wasn’t especially interested in obesity, but long after Quetelet’s death, another researcher — Ancel Keys — really was. In a 1972 study, he found that Quetelet’s calculation was the best of a bad bunch of measures that had been created to approximate patients’ body fat percentage. And as you can probably guess, it stuck. The best thing about the BMI is that it’s easy, explains Janet Tomiyama, PhD, an assistant professor of health psychology at UCLA. “It’s two numbers — weight and height — so anyone can get their [BMI] number without training,” she says. And because it's so quick, cheap, and anyone can do it, it's an obvious choice for researchers on the hunt for data. On top of that, BMI truly is useful as a measure when you're looking at a large set of data. In fact, as a new study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests, on that scale, it may even be more accurate at predicting health problems in a group of people than body fat percentage.
Weight-based stigma can increase stress and affect your body’s ability to deal with pathogens.
Doctors will take a look at your BMI and the advice they give you is to lose weight, but that’s not necessarily helpful.
There are other measures out there that might be more accurate predictors of health risks, but so far none have caught on the same way BMI has. For example, there are more technical tests that measure body fat percentage or your blood levels of C-reactive protein, which is related to inflammation. But these quickly become too slow and expensive to be feasible alternatives to the super easy BMI.
BMI is not the whole story for any individual.
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