Understanding Obesity / BMI & Obesity

BMI &Obesity

BMI or Body Mass Index is a globally acknowledged, scientific method of measuring obesity. Recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization), it is a simple index of weight- for- height, which is used to classify underweight, normal, overweight and obese adults along with their level of associated health risks. It is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of an individual’s height in meters. The classification of Underweight, Normal Overweight and Obese according to BMI is given in the table below:

Classification Popular Description BMI (kg/m2) Risk of co-morbidities
Underweight Thin <18.5 Low (but risk of other clinical problems increased)
Normal range Normal 18.5 - 22.9 Average
Overweight   23 – 24.9  
Pre-obese Overweight 25 - 29.9 Increased
Obese Class I Obese 30.0 - 34.9 Moderate
Obese Class II Obese 35.0 - 39.9 Severe
Obese Class III Morbidly Obese > = 40.0 Very severe

Generally, as the BMI increases, the potential risk of medical problems like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and many others becomes higher. BMI is often calculated to find out how prone a person is to these diseases; and suggest improvement measures and treatment.

Loss of weight through a healthy diet, and regular exercise can result into a lower BMI; and thus place a person in the low-risk category.

There are certain situations when it is not appropriate to calculate Body Mass Index, as the results are inaccurate. They are as follows:

  • BMI charts are usually meant only for adults and it is necessary to use a different, specific, BMI calculator and chart while calculating the BMI of children
  • The BMI calculator may report a higher BMI for athletes or people with muscular bodies; even though the actual fat levels in their bodies may be normal and healthy
  • BMI should not be calculated for pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding
  • People who are old, frail, weak, or just recovering from a disease may report a BMI that is not in line with the actual fat levels in their body

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