Can Someone Please Tell the U.S. National Institutes of Health that Body Mass Index (BMI) is Not a Measure of Body Fat?

This morning, I Googled “bmi” and was surprised at the top result — a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator provided by the US National Institutes of Health. The BMI calculator is clearly labeled “Body mass index (BMI) — A measure of body fat in adults.”

This information is factually incorrect. While one could argue that in general, BMI is correlated with body fat, it is wrong (and potentially harmful) to represent BMI as an accurate way of assessing the amount of body fat in an individual.

Many people simply insert their height and weight into the BMI widget, and rely on the BMI index as a measure of whether their height/weight combination classifies them as underweight, normal, overweight, or obese.

But as the entertaining and informative video below points out, it is possible to have the exact same BMI as someone who has a significantly higher (or lower) body fat percentage than you have.

The video also points out that the BMI doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat, and that the BMI calculator classifies five-time NFL All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch as obese.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that “BMI can be used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems but it is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.” This is a direct contradiction to the information provided by the US National Institute of Health.

Here’s more: a great piece from NPR in 2009, entitled Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI Is Bogus.

Reason #1: “The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.”

Can someone please tell the US National Institutes of Health (and Google) a correction is needed?

Writer, editor, photographer. Work with independent filmmakers & businesses run by creative people. Work at WOW Production Services —