A short note on the BMI and on secular changes in BMI
Human size changes over time with worldwide secular trends in height, weight, and body mass index (BMI). There is general agreement to relate the state of nutrition to height and weight, and to ratios of weight-to-height. The BMI is a ratio. It is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults. Yet, the BMI is inappropriate to provide any immediate information on body composition.
It is accepted that the BMI is “a simple index to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults”. It is stated that “policies, programmes and investments need to be “nutrition-sensitive”, which means they must have positive impacts on nutrition”. It is also stated that “a need for policies that address all forms of malnutrition by making healthy foods accessible and affordable, while restricting unhealthy foods through fiscal and regulatory restrictions“. But these statements are neither warranted by arithmetic considerations, nor by historic evidence.
Measuring the BMI is an appropriate screening tool for detecting an unusual weight-to-height ratio, but the BMI is an inappropriate tool for estimating body composition, or suggesting medical and health policy decisions.
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