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Is body mass index a good measure of health?

Ask an Expert: Karina Inkster

You’ve probably heard of body mass index (BMI), and maybe even measured your own. But is it an accurate measure of health? The short answer: no.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on a person’s height and weight. It was originally created to measure underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese people across large populations. However, it doesn’t take enough variables into account to be a very useful tool for individuals.

BMI does not distinguish between muscle and fat, so an athlete with a lot of muscle mass may be considered “overweight” or “obese” by this measure.

Measuring BMI across large populations can be useful for assessing the risk of developing certain health conditions, but it is not an accurate measure of health for an individual person. Tools such as body measurements, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, physique photos, strength progress and scale weight* should be used, instead.

*Scale weight should never be used on its own. Like BMI, it doesn’t differentiate between fat and muscle. Always use scale weight measurement along with other measures listed above.

Karina Inkster is a qathet region health and fitness coach, author of five books, and host of the No-B.S. Vegan podcast.

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