Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 1, 2009


As reported recently in another study, yes, America is getting fatter and yes, it's a big problem. But it's not helped by a stunningly incorrect system of calculation known as Body Mass Index, that assumes that everyone is built in two dimensions like Flat Stanley. Even the NY Times has finally admitted this but the conventional media continues to perpetuate the myth.

NY Times - A Belgian statistician and astronomer, Adolphe Quetelet, invented the index formula in the 1830s. But it wasn't until the 1980s that public health agencies adopted it as a way of identifying individuals at risk for heart attacks, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and some cancers.

In 1998, two branches of the National Institutes of Health created new guidelines which divided people into categories: You were "normal" if your index rating was between 18.5 and 24.9; "overweight'' if it was 25 to 29.9; and "obese" if it was 30 or higher.

After the change, many doctors and lay people were up in arms. By the revised standards, nearly 55 percent of the American adult population in 1998, was considered overweight or obese, according to the N.I.H. (Today, 66.3 percent of adults are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

The index also didn't distinguish between body fat and muscle mass, so athletes and bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose rating was 33 when he was Mr. Universe, were technically obese.

That struck some people as odd. Such discrepancies got experts wondering how accurately the index gauges health. Others questioned the reliability of the index because the figure doesn't take fitness into account.

Bryon Hall, Fatal Games - BMI has been criticized widely because it does not take into account body build. Therefore, a fitness trainer may mistakenly tell their client that the client is slightly overweight according to their BMI, when in fact they are fit but merely have an athletic build.

However, when I began extrapolating height and weight proportions to larger and smaller humanoids such as elves or giants, who were still generally meant to have a build at least similar to an average human, I got strange results. . .

The average male has a BMI of 21.58. The nearly 12-foot hypothetical person would have a BMI of 43.16. The hypothetical half-size or child-size person would have a BMI of 10.93. At this point, the problem should be obvious. As a measure, BMI results vary with height.



Blogger m said...

BMI is obviously simplistic and inadequate. It not only does not account for mass, but it treats the weights of both genders the same, and fails to correct for skeletal structure. Health men weigh more than health women at the same height, as do individuals with a large skeletal structure as opposed to a slight one.

July 1, 2009 4:45 PM  

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