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Is the Body Mass Index Standard Under Threat?

absi, bmi

We used to focus on the scale, then on BMI. A new index could be our most accurate predictor of health yet.

If you’re broad-shouldered and/or muscle-y you’ve probably felt the frustration of the Body Mass Index — the calculation that determines whether you’re normal, overweight or obese. After all, according to the BMI, fit famous guys like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are overweight.

If you’ve ever read the history of BMI, then you know its use in medicine and, frustratingly, the insurance industry, can be costly. Worse yet, it can be misleading.

But there might be a new index in town and one that more accurately predicts the your future health. Best of all, it’s nearly just as easily calculated as the BMI — the only difference is you need a tape measure for you waist.

A father and son team came up with “A Body Shape Index,” following increased evidence that where humans carry their weight is a better predictor of their health than a number on the scale. In particular, fat in the belly area has been shown to indicate fatty deposits on internal organs, which increases risk of cancer and also heart and vascular disease.

Like BMI, ABSI takes into account an individual’s height and weight. An additional measure of the waist size, in centimeters, is also crunched into the formula. Here’s the formula, according to the Los Angeles Times:

Take your waist circumference (in centimeters) and divide that by the product of two variables. The first is the square root of your height (in centimeters); the second is the square of the cube-root of your BMI.

ABSI was developed by Dr. Jesse Krakauer, an endocrinologist at Middletown Medical in Middletow,n N.Y., and his son Nir Krakauer, an assistant professor of engineering at City University of New York. Their study was published this week in the open-access journal Public Library of Science One.

It takes some crunching, but what do you think? How does your ABSI compare to your BMI in terms of what it says about the status of your health?

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