Sunday, October 5, 2008

BMI Criticism

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), "Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems."

Note the "most" people, not all people. Of course, I would even argue that "most" is too generous.

The CDC also explains that, "BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat, such as underwater weighing and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).1, 2 BMI can be considered an alternative for direct measures of body fat. Additionally, BMI is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems." To me, I see "cheap" and "lazy". Isn't the use of BMI doing a disservice to servicemembers. What say you? Look, if the CG and/or other services are going to really focus on health and fitness and treat it with extremely high importance than why not do it right?

The CDC, thank goodness, also mentions the following on their website:

"How reliable is BMI as an indicator of body fatness? The correlation between the BMI number and body fatness is fairly strong; however the correlation varies by sex, race, and age. These variations include the following examples:
  • At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men.
  • At the same BMI, older people, on average, tend to have more body fat than younger adults.
  • Highly trained athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness."

So, you are screwed if you are an older athletic female. There will be bells going off all over the place and red flags heralding attention for the fat-police. Again, ridiculous.

Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit. Still, this topic is one that is ever-present today as the Coast Guard recently announced that as of October 2009, it will be modifying the health and fitness program by adopting maximum allowable weight (MAW) and BMI.

ALCOAST 469/08 (internet release authorized) spells it all out. Outside of MAW and BMI, members should note that maximum body fat standards are also being reduced, no matter how old you are or if you are male or female. The CG submits that the use of BMI as it may help screen for health problems. Additionally, the ALCOAST referenced how the DOD adopted the BMI, but so what. Why jump on the bandwagon with something that doesn't make any sense?

Now, surely, a health and fitness program is vital. However, it should be realistic as well.

From Northwestern Health and Sciences University:

"Important Limitations of BMI:
BMI does not distinguish between fat mass and fat free mass. This is important because ACSM defines obesity as a percent of body fat at which disease increases. People with large amounts of lean tissue may have a high BMI while having their body fat percentage in a healthy range. In addition, a healthy BMI does not necessarily mean that body fat is within a healthy range.
BMI does not give any information on the location of the body fat which is important in determining obesity-related risk for disease." (Citing ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 6th Ed., 2000 and ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 4th Ed., 2001).

Let's back up, ALCOAST 469/08 referenced above states, "BMI is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. It provides a reliable indicator of body fatness..."

It doesn't though.

Here's something else I'd like to point out. The Coast Guard obviously supports the Mayo Clinic teachings (see the Tobacco Cessation Program). So, I went ahead and did a bit of research on BMI as put forth by the Mayo Clinic. In a web article titled, "A Body Mass Index Puzzle", the Mayo Clinic states, in part, "The study results are not an invitation for heart patients to put on weight, researchers said. Instead they highlight some shortcomings in BMI (a ratio of height to weight) as a measuring tool — especially because it fails to distinguish between excess body fat and muscle mass."

Please read the article. It's brief, but interesting and well-worth the read. CLICK HERE

Seriously, read it!

Alright, so what of the folks who are over BMI. They will be body fat tested, the same way they were before, except that the allowable body fat is now at a lower percentage. Okay, that's a little more understandable than the absurd usage of BMI. So, why even waste the time with anything BMI related. What is the point? Members are currently required to have a physical conducted every five (5) years. If there is that much concern over health problems that may be related to BMI, then why not increase the frequency of physicals. Why not every two years or every year?

I am all ears. What are your thoughts on this program and the changes on the horizon?


C Anderson said...

I watched my former offensive line man husband maintain his 300 lb weight to better perform as a boarding ofcr in D1. His weight set a presence and saved his life in many a bad situation when protecting our country and enforcing fishing restrictions. When reporting to HQ two years ago, he started a new routine and dropped over 50 lbs in less than 4 months.

The cost of replacing his entire wardrobe aside, the process was grueling. Even at 300 lbs, he spent 2 hrs in the gym, 4-5x per week. He keeps that same time limit; he changed the type of workout he put his body through. For those of you who know me personally, I am a chubby chacer. I miss my large husband; and, it kills me to think he could whittle away further-- spending more time in the gym rather than at home after this 4 month patrol.

The USMC has the best weight program; it is based on image. If you look good in uniform, you represent the corps.

Why can't we have the same?

PS and don't get my started on the 225 lb 5'7" active duty woman who weighed in my husband at HQ.

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