Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Body mass index (BMI) is the cornerstone of the current classification system for obesity and its advantages are widely exploited across disciplines ranging from international surveillance to individual patient assessment. However, like all anthropometric measurements, it is only a surrogate measure of body fatness. Obesity is defined as an excess accumulation of body fat, and it is the amount of this excess fat that correlates with ill-health. We propose therefore that much greater attention should be paid to the development of databases and standards based on the direct measurement of body fat in populations, rather than on surrogate measures. In support of this argument we illustrate a wide range of conditions in which surrogate anthropometric measures (especially BMI) provide misleading information about body fat content. These include: infancy and childhood; ageing; racial differences; athletes; military and civil forces personnel; weight loss with and without exercise; physical training; and special clinical circumstances. We argue that BMI continues to serve well for many purposes, but that the time is now right to initiate a gradual evolution beyond BMI towards standards based on actual measurements of body fat mass. © 2001 The International Association for the Study of Obesity.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Obesity Reviews

Publication Date

01/08/2001

Volume

2

Pages

141 - 147