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BMI and Fat Percentage

Is your BMI correlating with your health, or does it fall short in giving an accurate look at your health status?  Let’s first look at who created the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations were invented by Adolphe Quetelet a mathematician using the statistical analysis method in the 19th century in 1835 and was later termed Body Mass Index (BMI) in 1972 and is used to determine if a person is; underweight, normal, overweight, or obese. 

So, what does it not show?  BMI does not accurately calculate a person’s fat to-muscle percentage.  Recently several studies have been done to compare “Caucasians, African Americans of the same age, gender, waist circumference, weight, and height may have lower total and abdominal fat mass.” Thus, BMI will overestimate their body fat, and isn’t accurate.”  These results are also present in Asian people but are more likely to develop obesity-related illnesses than Caucasians.  In other studies, they have shown that when only using BMI measurements to determine the health status of an adolescent athlete 31% were obese when compared to using the skinfold method, with only 5.95% being obese.  

What the Studies Show about BMI and your Health

Research has shown that body fat percentage is a more accurate indicator of health risks. These include osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and an increased mortality rate even when the individual has a normal BMI.  However, the body fat percentage isn’t wholly accurate.  It’s important to recognize where the body fat is located.  The more body fat that is around the waistline increases an individual’s risk of heart disease. 

What is the healthy range of body fat per gender?  Body fat is evaluated by age and gender and a healthy range alters as the individual ages.  In general, a male’s healthy range of body fat can be anywhere from 8%-25%. Females can range from 21% to 36%.  Body fat composition is important for insulation, energy storage, producing hormones, and other metabolic functions.   Having too little places the body at risk also. 


 It’s important to evaluate both BMI and body fat percentage.  Simply looking at a pound of muscle and a pound of fat and saying it’s the same doesn’t give a real advantage point to the health status of an individual.  So, we must look closer such as a cup of fat and a cup of muscle when measuring it we will find that muscle is heavier and will increase an persons BMI falsely.  Having the correct body composition data will assist in planning for appropriate dietary needs and activity guidelines.