5 Reasons Why the ‘Body Mass Index’ is Obsolete

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Mannatech®, a global health and wellness company committed to transforming lives to make a better world, is calling on the weight loss industry to ditch the antiquated “Body Mass Index” (BMI) as a measure of health.

In a recent statement, Mannatech CEO, Alfredo “Al” Bala called BMI a “systemic problem” and “not an accurate way to measure health,” and Mannatech has declared that it is time to throw out BMI, along with scale weight, as a measure of health.

Mannatech is taking the lead in shifting weight loss management from BMI to focus more on body composition, which gives a clearer, more precise indication of a person’s progress based on the addition of lean muscle mass and inches lost. Supporting this effort is a ground swell of research and data that shows how BMI is not helpful, and in some cases causes harm.

1.  A “bad” BMI doesn’t mean you are unhealthy

According to a study of over 40,000 U.S. adults considered to be representative of the U.S. population by researchers at UCLA, BMI would be predicted to cause millions of individuals to be labeled incorrectly as unhealthy. Projecting their findings on the U.S. population as a whole, the authors showed how off the mark the use of BMI could be as researchers studied the link between BMI and several other health markers, including blood pressure, glucose, C-reactive protein, insulin resistance, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The report showed an estimated 75 million U.S. adults would be misclassified as metabolically unhealthy or healthy, this includes:

  • As estimated 34.4 million Americans labeled by the BMI scale as overweight would be considered metabolically healthy
  • An estimated 17.7 million Americans labeled by the BMI scale as “obese” would be considered healthy
  • An estimated two million Americans labeled by the BMI scale as “very obese” would be considered metabolically healthy

2. A “good” BMI score doesn’t mean you are healthy

According to the same UCLA study, the use of BMI as a health predictor could be even more problematic when applying this to people with supposedly healthy BMIs. The research predicted that nearly 21 million people whose BMIs put them in the “normal” bracket would actually have indicators that suggested they were metabolically unhealthy.

3. BMI is a “200 year old hack”

Math professor Keith Devlin, writing for NPR in 2009, dubbed the BMI measure “a 200-year-old hack.” Devlin pointed out that the BMI was developed in the early 1800s by a mathematician, Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, who, as a non-physician “explicitly said that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.”

Devlin continued saying that those who work out or are very fit and develop muscle mass can be easily mislabeled as overweight or obese. “A high BMI does not mean an individual is even overweight, let alone obese. It could mean the person is fit and healthy, with very little fat,” Devlin writes.

4. BMI penalizes athletes

Dr. Steve Nugent, Mannatech’s Senior Global Wellness Director and Chairman of the Mannatech Global Scientific Advisory Board, pointed out that super athlete and NBA star, Lebron James, at six-foot-eight-inches, 250 pounds with a BMI of 27.5, would be classified as ‘overweight’ on the BMI scale.

NPR noted that based on players’ height and weight, none of the players on the Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos team have a normal BMI. According to the BMI scale, all of the Broncos’ players would be classified as overweight, obese or very obese.

5. High BMIs can hurt your wallet

Many insurance carriers use BMI as a measure of health, and thus it has a direct effect on prices insurance companies charge. Additionally, as pointed out by the study’s authors, a recent proposal from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would allow employers to force employees with higher BMIs to pay more expensive insurance premiums. The higher costs would be based on an inaccurate measurement of health – BMI.

The end of BMI?

Mannatech is in full agreement with the researchers at UCLA, who believe thatthe cardiometabolic measures evaluated in the study are better measures of an individual’s health.. Additionally, it is time to move past BMI, which is a conclusion posed by the UCLA study: “Policymakers should consider the unintended consequences of relying solely on BMI…”

One member of the research team was quoted as saying, “This should be the final nail in the coffin for BMI.”

As a leader in the health and wellness industry around the world, Mannatech is encouraging a different approach to weight management. “We really can’t go on thinking that BMI or scale weight is an accurate or realistic measure to long-term success to attain a healthy body,” said Dr. Nugent.

For more information about Mannatech’s efforts to transform lives around the world with its programs and products* focused on body composition1, please visit Mannatech.com.