For Nearly 1 in 5 Americans, BMI May Tell the Wrong Story

August 23, 2013

Obese is bad and lean is good. End of story, right? Wrong, say a pair of Penn physicians and obesity researchers who are calling for better ways to assess individual health prospects than the body mass index, or BMI, the Los Angeles Times reports. Rexford Ahima, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Obesity Unit in the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, and Mitchell Lazar, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Genetics and Director of the Institute of Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, write a Perspective piece in Science saying that "there is an urgent need for accurate, practical, and affordable tools for assessing body composition, adipose hormones, myokines, cytokines and other biomarkers as predictive tools" that would let physicians separate the fat-but-fit from those in danger, and to identify the trim ones who look healthy but are actually at risk of illness and early death. "The BMI doesn't tell you anything about how fat is distributed in the body, or about the fat-muscle ratio, and doesn't take into account racial differences or differences between male and female," Ahima told The Telegraph (of India). Coverage also appeared in Scientific American, Huffington Post, The Telegraph, LiveScience, Fast Company's CoExist, and Health Central.

Penn Medicine News release
Los Angeles Times article
Huffington Post via Scientific American article
Full Scientific American article
Telegraph (India) article
Live Science article
Fast Company's CoExist article
HealthCentral article