A study led by psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found that the body mass index (BMI) scale incorrectly labels people as ‘unhealthy’. The findings have been published online in the International Journal of Obesity.
The researchers examined the link between BMI — which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by their height — and several health markers, including blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
They found that close to half of those considered overweight are actually healthy, as are more than a quarter of people considered clinically obese.
Janet Tomiyama, the study’s lead author, said: ‘Many people see obesity as a death sentence. But the data shows there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy.
‘There are healthy people who could be penalised based on a faulty health measure, while the unhealthy people of normal weight will fly under the radar and won’t get charged more for their health insurance. Employers, policy makers and insurance companies should focus on actual health markers.’
The researchers also discovered that over 30 per cent of those with BMIs in the ‘normal’ range are actually unhealthy based on their other health data.
Jeffrey Hunger, a co-author of the paper, said the research shows that BMI is a deeply flawed measure of health. ‘This should be the final nail in the coffin for BMI,’ he said.