Doctors have long relied on the body mass index (BMI) to help determine whether an adult is overweight. But according to a new study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, BMI may not be the best way to measure someone's health.
When choosing whether or not to approve a patient for weight loss surgery, doctors often use BMI as a first step. If you fall into the categories of either "overweight" or "obese," your doctor might refer you to a therapist. This can help lead to more lifestyle changes, like exercise and healthier eating habits.
But there are problems with using BMI alone as a health measure. The main issue is that it doesn't account for muscle mass, which can skew results for people who work out regularly. One study found that almost 50% of competitive bodybuilders were considered obese when only looking at their BMI scores.
BMI may not be the most accurate tool for everyone, but it's still a useful measure of an individual's overall health, said Dr. Gupta.
"BMI is not perfect," he said. "It doesn't take into account muscle mass."
But BMI is still a helpful guideline for determining if someone is obese or at a healthy weight, according to Gupta. The best way for individuals to truly determine if they are at a healthy weight, he added, is to consult with their doctors.
Men and women have different body types, so the formulas are different for each gender. The formulas also change based on a person's age; they tend to overestimate obesity in older people and underestimate it in younger ones.
Ultimately, most people will benefit from working towards a healthy BMI. But even if you're not technically overweight or obese according to BMI standards, being out of shape can still have effects on your health. So whether you use BMI as a guideline or not, it's always a good idea to keep your health in mind by eating well, exercising regularly, and staying in touch with your doctor.