Thanks to the body mass index (BMI), you can find out how a person’s weight and height correlate: the number indicating weight (kg) is divided by the number indicating height (m), squared. This indicator is mainly used to determine whether a person’s weight exceeds the norm. Despite common misconceptions, BMI is not able to accurately indicate the amount of fat deposits in the body or the possible diseases of a person. What other myths about BMI are useful to know?
Body mass index and health
This index is relevant to calculate for adults of both sexes aged 20 years and older. For children aged 2 years and older, this indicator is estimated as a percentage. That is, the results of a particular child are compared with the average result of other children of the same age and gender. To calculate BMI, you do not need to use any equipment, perform complex exercises or visit a doctor. It is enough to resort to the help of online calculators, which are easy to find on various sites. All you need to do is enter your height and weight data and the result will be calculated automatically.
If the BMI is too high, then this means that the person’s weight is outside the normal range. But this does not always mean that the body has accumulated a lot of fat. BMI is considered a simple and easy-to-use method for assessing the state of fat mass and body weight. But he is not perfect. For example, in athletes, an increase in their muscle mass can be mistaken for the accumulation of fat. The index may not take into account the amount of body fat in older people and those cases when the body loses muscle mass. Therefore, BMI data cannot be taken literally. Here are some common myths associated with this indicator.
Myth #1: Regular exercise guarantees a healthy BMI.
Proper diet and regular exercise are key factors in keeping the body in good shape. However, this does not always lead to a normal BMI, since this indicator does not distinguish between fat and muscle. It must be borne in mind that muscles are a priori heavier than fat, so a person who regularly exercises and eats healthy food can have a lean body and a high BMI. That is why with a certain diet and regular exercise, a person gradually begins to gain muscle mass and weigh more. An overestimated BMI also happens with health problems, indicating the onset of the disease. On the other hand, even a very massive person can be absolutely healthy.
Myth #2: A lower BMI is indicative of good health.
Excess fat is associated with high levels of sugar and cholesterol in the blood. However, a BMI below normal does not guarantee a person the absence of disease and health problems. People with a low BMI are at a higher risk of developing infections than people who are overweight. The reason is that an underweight body is more prone to immune system disorders.
According to studies conducted in Korea, men and women with low BMI are more likely to suffer from respiratory diseases that affect the respiratory system. Moreover, the risk of death in respiratory diseases is higher in patients with low BMI.
It is important to consider that an outwardly thin body is capable of accumulating harmful fat in itself, which collects near the internal organs. At the same time, people with visceral fat are at a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Therefore, do not think that you can stay healthy just because the BMI is not high.
Myth #3: BMI can determine the onset of disease
BMI is not peremptory and the same indicator for all people, especially for tall and athletic people. Obesity experts have reported after research that about 74.9 million adults have been misdiagnosed with heart disease based on BMI alone. Therefore, doctors should not get hung up on only one indicator of BMI, since this can miss the true cause of poor health. Going for a medical examination, it is desirable to undergo a complete examination of the body.
Myth #4: The BMI formula is effective in assessing the health and obesity of both individuals and entire populations.
Contrary to popular belief, BMI is not suitable for an accurate assessment of the state of obesity and the health of an individual. But it can be an effective tool for roughly estimating obesity and overweight at the population level. The BMI formula was originally created by a mathematician, not a doctor. With this simplified indicator of the ratio of weight to height, body constitution and age are not taken into account. Therefore, this indicator cannot be interpreted as predicting obesity and health status for each individual.
Myth #5: A high BMI increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Indeed, a person with a high BMI is at greater risk of a heart attack. But such a statement cannot be called the final truth. The controversy of this situation was proved by British studies in which 4,046 pairs of identical twins participated. Each couple had the same DNA but different levels of body fat. Scientists say that not every brother or sister of an identical couple with a large BMI had a high risk of heart failure. A higher BMI may be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, the study found.
In parallel, South Asians with a high BMI were found to have no increased risk of death from heart disease. However, scientists say that if BMI is normal, then this indicator does not reduce the risk of developing cardiometabolic problems.
Myth #6: A normal BMI is an indicator of normal body condition.
If an adult has a BMI in the range of 18.5 to 24.9, this is a sure sign that the weight is within the normal range. But this does not mean that the person is healthy. In addition, if a person is thin, this does not mean that his health is better than that of an overweight person. Health status depends on many factors, including heredity, gender, lifestyle, nutrition, and more.
If a person with a normal BMI smokes a lot or abuses alcohol, it is difficult to consider his body healthy. People who smoke and drink are more at risk of worsening overall well-being. Therefore, you should not take a normal BMI as an indicator of good health.