A little more on the BMI: The index was “invented” by Belgian man named Adolphe Quetelet, who’s identified as a “polymath.” I’m not exactly certain what a polymath is, but it sure doesn’t sound fun.
During the course of this writing, Lancet medical journal published meta-analytic research (of 40 studies) out of the Mayo Clinic suggesting that those with too-low BMIs were at greater risk for heart disease-related death than those who had BMIs in the normal range. Moreover, those considered “overweight” by classic BMI standards actually had a higher rate of survival (with fewer heart problems) than those in the “normal” BMI range.
Head researcher Francisco Lopez-Jimenez says “Rather than proving that obesity is harmless, our data suggests that alternative methods might be needed to better characterize individuals who truly have excess body fat compared with those in whom BMI is raised because of preserved muscle mass.”
It took the Mayo Clinic until 2006 to come up with this? Our gold standard isn’t so golden, after all.
In another article in the same issue of the Lancet, Maria Grazia Franzosi states, “BMI can definitely be left aside as a clinical and epidemiological measure of cardiovascular risk.” Instead, it seems that waist-to-hip ratios are, for now, the way to go. And Grazia Franzosi’s research suggests that these ratios are good prognostic indicators of cardiovascular health. Still, we seem glued to a number (from pounds to BMI to ratios) that is, at best, a gross estimate of an individual’s unique biology. When it comes down to it, it’s easier to address a number than a person.