Health Women's Health

BMI vs. Body Composition

As of 2012, about half of all adults – 117 million people – had one or more chronic health conditions. One in four adults had two or more chronic health conditions. Many of these conditions are rooted in obesity. During 2011-2014, more than one-third of adults (36%), or about 84 million people, were obese.

How do you determine if you are at a healthy weight, overweight or obese?

During a traditional medicine appointment, a nurse will most likely take your height and weight. These two measurements will be calculated to determine your BMI or body mass index. The body mass index (BMI) was devised by Adolphe Quetelet, in the 1830s. While this measurement in general can be a useful guide for the overall population, it has several issues for use on an individual level.

  1. This measurement does not take into account the proportion of bone, muscle and fat in the body.
  2. Bone is denser than muscle and twice as dense as fat.
  3. Muscle is also denser than fat, taking up 4/5ths the amount of space.
  4. The amount of water in the body can fluctuate greatly throughout the day and for women in particular, throughout hormonal fluctuations.
  5. It doesn’t take into account where the fat on the body is located. For instance, fat located in the upper body or visceral fat wraps around the organs and is linked with metabolic complications, whereas increased lower body fat is independently predictive of reduced cardiovascular risk.
  6. The calculation assumes tall people are scaled up shorter people. They are not.

Furthermore, people in Adolphe Quetelet’s time led fairly sedentary lives and were not particularly active. Resistance training is a relatively new concept and one which women have embraced even more recently. One positive consequence of resistance training, including weight training, is increased bone density. A muscular woman with superb bone density could be labeled as overweight while a woman who weighs little but has poor bone density and high body fat percentage contained in the upper body could be labeled healthy.

You simply can’t determine someone’s true health in relation to their body composition by the number on the scale or even clothing size.

What is a better way of determining your health in relation to body fat? And how can you use this information to guide you to improved health?

Tests that evaluate your body fat and muscle percentage and distribution give a much more holistic view of your true composition. The Health Nucleus features non-invasive imaging that quantifies visceral adipose fat, lower extremity muscle volume, subcutaneous fat and ratios of visceral to subcutaneous fat among other measures. These imaging biomarkers can correlate with risk of Diabetes Type 2, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.  These measurements are also a good baseline guide to determine your composition and can help inform you how to improve your health.

Health Nucleus Membership allows you to revisit and evaluate how your efforts have affected your true body composition and by extension, your health.

Sources

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_mass_index

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9927006

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2585758/