I know - you and everyone else hates Body Mass Index as a measure of what it means to be overweight. Invented in the early 1800s by a Belgian statistician, the measurement is used as a definitive benchmark: those with a score below 18.5 are underweight, those who fall between 18.5 and 24.9 are normal, those between 25 to 29.9 are overweight, and those 30 and higher are obese.
For years, medical professionals have taken issue with these cleanly drawn lines. The BMI scale, critics argue, is too simplistic to accurately reflect health on an individual basis.
Well, you wanted something different - and now you got it. Instead of BMI, we're going with BVI, Body Volume Indicator. You're welcome. More from the Interwebs, commentary after this blurb about BVI:
Today, the Mayo Clinic adds its voice to the chorus. The medical care provider announced that is recommending a new system for measuring body composition and weight distribution: the Body Volume Indicator (BVI). Unlike BMI, which is formulated by comparing an individual’s weight in relation to his or her height, BVI considers “other crucial factors such as fat mass, lean mass, and weight distribution when determining an individual’s body composition,” Jose Medina-Inojosa, a cardiovascular research fellow at the Mayo Clinic, told Fortune. In addition to weight and height, information on waist-to-hip ratio, total body fat percentage, and abdominal volume is factored when determining a score.
Here’s how it works: doctors take two photos of their patients, wearing just their underwear, from the front and from the side. After the photos are taken, they are turned into 3D body silhouettes, and sent to a backend server where the images are compared to a database compiled from thousands of MRI images, 3D body scans, and Cadaver information. (The photos themselves are then deleted.)
By cross-referencing 3D silhouettes of patients with this database, the app provides more detailed information on weight distribution and volume, particularly for the abdomen, the area of the body “associated with the greatest risk for metabolic disease and insulin resistance,” said Medina-Inojosa. An increasing body of research suggests that fat in the midsection, which blankets the organs, is associated with a higher likelihood of premature mortality than fat carried in other areas of the body. Two women could be the same weight and height, but if one carries most of the weight in her hips, while the other’s is distributed primarily in the stomach, the latter would be at greater risk of developing a host of health issues. Their BMIs would be identical, but because BVI considers weight distribution and the percentage of fat stored in the abdominal cavity, those numbers would be different.
Is BVI a more accurate measure of obesity that matters? Yes.
Are people still going to hate the measurement and question it's validity? HELL yes.
The dirty little secret about these types of measurements is that they make us confront uncomfortable truths. That's why the BMI was so fun to hate and also to deny. It was easy to say, "I'm big-boned" or "I'm just husky".
Vince Vaughn is husky. You sir, are no Vince Vaughn. You look like Chris Farley after an all-afternoon binge at Piccadilly.
Anyway, the jist of BVI is this - it's a more accurate measurement of obesity that matters, and it's rooted in good science. They're not telling you you're fat (although you might be), they're telling you the type of fat you have is a lot more dangerous than having some tricep flaps.
In this way, BVI provides a more direct measurement and a better call to action.
You're not fat, but your BVI shows you've got a problem. Let's work on that.
Here's hoping the BVI can catch on and scare some people to take action beyond denial statements like "Huskiness has always been a problem in my family".
Will denial decrease as a result of a more accurate measurement of being overweight? I doubt it.