The body mass index is a calculation value for measuring the amount of body fat and what the weight should be of an individual of a certain height. This has been used to classify whether or not a person has weight related issues such as obesity. This scale has been used for both adults and children. The issue is that it may not be very precise. The measurements do not take into account muscles mass. The attempt at being a scientific measure does not seem as practical. Normally, when a person gains huge amounts of weight health problems become apparent. Aches and pains are present in the joints, because the skeleton has to support more weight than it was intended for. There is also a drastic decrease in cardiovascular fitness. The circulatory system becomes strained and the risk of certain cancers increase with an increase in body weight. The body mass index is not even accurate enough to be used as a diagnostic tool. The BMI is more of a screening tool. It may not even be as useful a screening tool as previously thought. A more precise assessment of weight related issues would involve skin fold thickness measurements, an examination of family history, and evaluations of both diet or physical activity. It is questionable that BMI can even be a measure of health.
The body mass index at its core is a formula measuring a range of body weight that is considered healthy to a person’s height. The modern body mass index came into existence in 1998 under the the National Institutes of Health. It was designed to be a general standard to aid doctors, researchers, dietitians, and various government agencies. Prior to this there was not a nation wide standard of determining healthy weight. Since the birth of BMI there has now been one standard.
The BMI value can either be metric or English system of measures. The chart does not fully account for people of different somatotypes. Those with a mesomorphic body could be classified as obese. It should also recognize that women naturally have a higher body fat level no matter what their weight is. The thinnest or most muscular woman would still carry a higher fat percentage. A woman who is not overweight may fall into the classification. Colette Nelson a female bodybuilder would reach at total of 175 lbs in off season being 65.1 inches tall ( 5 ft 5 in ). Using the equation for the BMI ( English system of measures). Solving this mathematically would be as follows : 175 lbs divided by the square of 65 inches and multiplied by 703. This results in a BMI of 29.11 on the chart placing her in the over weight range. If 0.89 were added to that value with an increase of her weight she would be in the obese range. When looking at pictures of Colette Nelson, it is clear that she does not have a weight problem.
When she competed it was at a weight of 145 lbs. This would make her BMI at that point 24.13 considered a healthy weight. However, there is no indication she was any less healthy with a higher body mass. Her body is mostly muscle mass and their is no way for the chart to distinguish between fat and muscle. This is not just a problem for women measured on the scale, it also happens to larger men. If we were to do more calculations with women of different somatotypes a similar problem could occur. Women who have ectomorphic body types could be incorrectly classified as underweight. Halley Berry would have a BMI of 20.13 and could fall into the underweight range. As one can see she obviously is not emaciated, just thin.
It would be simple to fluctuate between these designated ranges in the BMI scale. Adding a small amount of weight would not serious harm health. The BMI has many limitations in precision. It does not estimate accurately the total amount of body fat that is present. It does not account for sex differences and sex hormones that have an effect on body composition. A person can have a high BMI, yet not be overweight or obese. Many professional athletes if their BMI was calculated would fall in the overweight range of BMI. It has been suggested that waist circumference may be a better indicator of weight health. The reason why the BMI may be rooted in its origins.
The origins of the body mass index can be traced back to the 19th century. Adolphe Quetelet developed an index in which weight (kilograms) was divided by the square of height (in meters). This was known as the Quetelet index until 1972. Quetelet was by profession by trade a mathematician, astronomer, and statistician. He had a fascination with probability calculus and wanted to apply this to the study of human characteristics. The Belgian scientist then produced the equation in 1832. When this equation was developed, the world was a different place. Corpulence was seen as a sign of good health. This made sense in a time of limited food security. Even with the green revolution of the 20th century, there are still nations that struggle with food security. Prior to this having some fat would have meant survival. It was not until the mid-19th to early 20th century did weight gain began to be seen as a potential health risk. Insurance companies took note of this and developed normal weight tables of their own to determine which policies they should give their customers. Louis Dublin owner of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was the harbinger in regards to normal weight charts based on a person’s height. This system was not exactly precise either. Weight was divided by a given height into two thirds. Undesired weight was 20% to 25% and the classification for morbid obesity was 70% to 100%. These measure seem arbitrary. Another problem was that these measures were done mostly on Western populations.
The Polynesian populations have a larger body structure compared to Europeans. This is a product of genetics, rather than race. The athletes that are from that region do not have health related issues in regards to weight. Yet, past and current weight classifications would state they are unhealthy. This is not true. East African runners may be classified as being under weight. Seeing as they have a high physical activity level it should be assumed that their health is in optimum condition. Such charts and equations do not account for the variation in populations globally. When Adolphe Quetelet made produced his work he had no intention of using it for understanding obesity or weight related issues. He wanted to see if there was a Gaussian distribution in terms of height and weight. He did encounter issues when doing this with his statistical samples. The equation was developed to contribute to fixing possible errors. During his research he found that body mass increases during puberty height and weight stabilize. The only thin he was documenting was the average rate of growth in stages of the human life cycle. Even if a calculation is done in the metric system a person who is not overweight or obese could fall in that classification. Lenda Murray’s weigh was 74 kg and stands at a height of 1.65 m. Squaring her height and then dividing by the total weight results in a value of 27.2 BMI.
This again places a person in the overweight range, when they do not have a weight problem. If we were to present this visually it would simple enough to see who has a weight problem. Lenda Murray during her years of competition was clearly at a high physical fitness level . This does not mean physiognomy should be a measure of health. Women with naturally endomorphic body types would not be at a serious health risk. That would only happen if there was a drastic change in diet or endocrine related illness or disorder. Using charts and equations for weight in which it was not intended for will not give accurate assessments of health.
The body mass index is not the best method for detecting weight problems. Studies have indicated that overweight individuals have similar or better outcomes compared to normal weight individuals in terms of cardiovascular incidents. There can be alternatives to determining healthy weight.
The alternatives to BMI measurement involve examining waistline. A 2012 study done in eight European countries showed that overweight people with large waists were most likely to develop diabetes just like people who were morbidly obese. Then there is the method of using the skinfold. The skinfold method measures body fat in various folds of skin on the human body. Personal trainers use this method to help clients with particular fitness goals. There also could be more rudimentary measures. The ability to be ambulatory should be a simple marker. When people put on a certain amount of weight walking becomes more difficult. The extremely obese sometimes lose their ability to walk simply because the bones in their legs cannot support it. When weight goes up the skeleton will struggle to maintain support. Bone mass does not increase with the rise of adipose tissue. Stress tests could be given as an indirect way to see if there are potential weight issues. It is clear that everyone’s health condition is different and methods need to be developed to account for that fact.
Health professionals continue to use BMI when there has been both historical and scientific questions to its accuracy. The body mass index does not thoroughly take into account sex and age in the measurements. As people age they lose muscle mass which can effect health. Older people may have a normal BMI, yet could be losing critical bone and muscular strength. There also has to be consideration for where the weight is gained on the body. If weight is gained in the abdominal or hip areas it can increase certain risk factors. The body mass index at least could be used to measure the probable weight health of a given population. This measure would not be a precise one. If there is an account of athletes who are larger, people who are thinner, or people of endomorphic body types this distorts the data. If this is considered the obesity rates may not be as high as previously thought. It is clear that weight related issues are on the rise globally, but there needs to be an improve method of measures. The best method to prevent or deal with weight related health challenges are the traditional ones : diet, exercise, doctor’s appointments, and controlled eating.
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