Let's begin with a history lesson, shall we? Nearly 200 years ago a mathematician and astronomer by the name of Lambert Adolph Jacques Quetelet devised a theory that by dividing a person's weight by their height squared you could accurately determine their overall health.
It was around this time that science also believed you could judge a man’s character by taking measurements of his skull.
They also believed that there was literally life on every single planet in our solar system
And don’t forget… if you happened to be a farmer struggling through a particularly dry summer, all you needed to do was pop a plough in your field and the rains would come…
Now, the bottom three have all been proven bogus – plough, rain – PAH! Indeed the top one has too, but this simple formula became known as the Body Mass Index and it has been used by health professionals the world over ever since.
The thing is, it was nothing more than a theory. A theory which has been widely discredited by fitness, medical and scientific communities. So why, when it is renowned for being incredibly flawed, is it still used to determine the health of an individual in the modern age?
This, quite frankly, is a question that has puzzled athletes, fitness fans and medical professionals for decades, yet the NHS still insists on using it despite numerous alternatives being offered up. Alternatives that actually take body fat into consideration and not just weight, which surely would make more sense?!
After all, you could take the BMI of any International Rugby team in the world and you can be assured that pretty much all the players would be categorically obese according to the BMI, yet you only have to look at them to know that their body fat percentage would be low.
Day after day, we are bombarded with news reports about how fat Britain is. How we are now the second most obese nation in the world with America tipping the scales into first place by mere pounds.
But, next time you read this story, you may want to do so with a pinch of salt – not too much of course - as these statistics are all based on BMI.
Now, we’re not saying that there is an obesity issue occurring in the United Kingdom today, but we are saying that the figures from these studies may not provide you with a true representation.
Need a bit more convincing? Here are the top 10 reasons why the BMI is a whole load of BS…
1. Quetelet said it couldn’t and shouldn’t be used to determine the level of fatness of an individual
Yes folks, the man who created the formula in the 19th century even admitted that the BMIcould in no way accurately determine the body fat of an individual. He created it simply as a way to measure the degree of obesity of the general populous so the government could better allocate resources. It’s the first fitness hack!
2. Money scam?
Because the BMI is so widely discredited it makes more cynical members of the population come up with conspiracy theories about why it’s still used today.
Is it so insurance companies can hike their prices if an individual has a higher BMI?
We’re not saying this is the case… but…
3. It’s scientifically wrong
There is literally no physiological reason why you must square the height! Furthermore, why on earth is waist size not taken into consideration? This would be a far better indicator of body mass!
4. It’s out dated
When Quetelet theorised the formula many folk lived simple yet highly active lifestyles, whereas today we’re much more sedentary so the idea of there being an “average” man simply does not ring true.
After all, the average of an entire population does not reflect an individual.
5. It’s physiologically nonsensical
The BMI as it stands does not take into account a person’s bone density, muscle mass or body fat. This is a big problem considering bone is naturally denser than fat AND muscle, so if you have strapping muscles, low body fat and strong bones, your BMI will be high!
Which explains the ruggers…
6. It lies
Just because it carries an air of scientific authority with its fancy 1-100 scale does not mean it tells the truth.
7. It’s illogical
This one is a bit of a brain twist so prepare yourselves. Quetelet determined that if a person were fat they would have a high BMI. Much like if we told you that there was a car sitting outside you could accurately assume it had four wheels.
However, if we told you their was a vehicle sitting outside, you couldn’t automatically determine that it was a car with four wheels, it could be a motorbike with two.
This is why, if someone has a high BMI, you cannot presume they are fat. They could just be fit and healthy with lots of muscle.
8. There are more scientifically sound methods
We’ll say it again… BODY FAT PERCENTAGE. 200 years ago there wasn’t the technology to accurately measure a persons body fat, but now there are a whole host of tools and gadgets to do so.
This is the only way to accurately determine if a person is obese or not.
9. It categorises the uncategorical
The BMI implies that there are distinct categories of obese, overweight, ideal or underweight people with definitive boundaries on decimal points, which make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Why? Because none of their other physiological make up is considered.
10. It sucks
The United Kingdom is one of the most medically advanced nations in the world. We’re leaders in medicine and forward thinkers in science, so why on earth do we still rely on a 200 year old disproved theory?