According to the latest studies, more than 2.2 billion people are overweight. Most people are unaware that they are carrying a lot of excess weight around even if they look skinny. And doctors are not helping their cause by using a metric like BMI to determine how overweight people are.
As of 2017, obesity is responsible for more than 4 million deaths worldwide each year. Cardiovascular issues are the leading cause, while diabetes is in close second place. There are already treatments in place that help with these issues, but the problem is that we are using a lousy metric for determining who actually needs help.
Doctors and physicians use BMI almost universally. Obesity and BMI have become all but inseparable because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention uses it. It is also what the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association use as well. It is generally accepted that if you have a BMI of 25-30, you are overweight. If you are over 30, you are considered obese. Unfortunately, this definition can also be found in the New England Journal of Medicine, which gives it even more credibility. Another issue is that every recent study has used BMI as its main measuring metric because every previous research used it as well. This leaves the entire scientific community in a perpetual loop of misinformation.
Now, the studies themselves are not inaccurate when you consider how they were conducted. The real culprit is the system that was used to produce the studies; a system that was incorrect to begin with. Researchers are now looking for accurate yet simple methods for determining overall health.
One of the metrics that might be used in the future which seems to be much more accurate is waist size. Early studies have shown that a man with normal BMI but with fat around his midsection had a much higher risk of mortality than a man who was obese according to BMI. All of this stems from the fact that BMI is based on height and weight. It does not take body fat into consideration at all. And the thing that is most connected to health issues is, in fact, body fat. There is no apparent reason why fat in the midsection is so important as an indicator of health.
There are many ways to determine someone’s degree of health. Indicators like cholesterol levels and insulin resistance are all great, but doctors tend to use BMI as it seems like a shortcut. But it is not, and these indicators show us just how wrong using BMI is.
This even allows insurance companies to charge obese people more money for insurance, even in cases where, metabolically speaking, the individual in question is healthier than some people with normal body weight. BMI is such a terrible metric that it might also show that a disciplined weightlifter with a sorted out diet has the same BMI as an obese person or a skinny person that does not exercise and has a beer gut. That is how absurd BMI measurements can be.
For now, the most accurate way to determine whether someone is obese or not is by using computed tomography. The issue is that the procedure is expensive and time-consuming. Using the waist to hip ratio method is almost equally as good but far less costly. So there are methods available, doctors just need to start adopting them.
There are very few people on this planet who enjoy their work more than Aner Banner. His friends often readily admit that Aner eats, sleeps, and breaths science 24 hours a day. He is always challenging old methods, proposing new ideas, and seeking to solve difficult problems. Aner spends most of the day imparting his wisdom to the young minds of a small elementary school. Thankfully he has also mastered the art of making science come alive for the future leaders of our nation. He is loved and well respected by students, parents, and faculty alike. His motto forever remains “never stop learning.