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The fundamental differences between BMI and the new way of measuring overweight

Two people can have the same Body Mass Index and very different fat percentages

The Body Mass Index has been, since its creation two centuries ago, the most useful measure to explain our body health in less than a minute. However, the effectiveness of this formula has been called into question by specialists.
The fundamental differences between BMI and the new way of measuring overweight





Now, BVI America has created, after an investigation of more than a decade in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic or the U.K Medical Research Council, an app. for iPad, BVI Pro, based on a more useful revolutionary formula: the Body Volume Indicator or BVI (Body Volume Indicator). Designed exclusively for health professionals to handle, the application would reveal the body composition of the patients, the weight distribution and the associated health risks.


"The BVI app gives us in less than 30 seconds data such as our body fat volume, visceral fat, abdomen volume or waist-to-hip ratio"
The simple equation with which BVI works compares the total volume of the body with the volume of the abdomen, measuring the proportion of total body fat versus the proportion of visceral fat. With the app, a doctor, physiotherapist or dietitian can measure BVI by entering our vital signs (height, weight, age, sex, and fitness level), and then take two photos - one front and one side.

The application then divides our body into seven 3D images to analyze the volume and composition of the body. In less than 30 seconds we will have the result of our body fat volume, visceral fat, abdomen volume, waist-hip ratio, BMI and the new BVI number: in short, much broader and more enlightening data of our general state of health and our physical condition.

Although the ideal would be that each case we deal with a specialist individually -and in this sense, it is positive that the new app is designed for professionals-, our obsession with the figures and for quickly obtaining results that account for our state of health it demands from the researchers' solutions like those of the present study. But why did we urgently need new methods to replace BMI? Is this going to remain, as of now, in the background?

Why the BMI is obsolete and we need to change it
Of course, it seems that the new formula improves on the previous one. The deficiencies of the Body Mass Index are known to specialists, but perhaps not so much to patients. We speak with Marta Cendón, a member of the Official College of Dietitians-Nutritionists of Castilla y León, to expand information on the subject.



"BMI is a parameter that simply relates weight to height and according to the result we classify the person ”

The fact that BMI is not a very reliable measure is that it is a parameter that simply relates body weight to height, and depending on the result we "classify" the person: The problem is that what is not taken into account Fat percentage is part of that weight when, however, the definition of overweight or obesity is “excess weight based on fat mass”. That is, the limitation of using BMI is that it does not take into account body composition (fat percentage and muscle percentage mainly), ”he explains.
The fundamental differences between BMI and the new way of measuring overweight



The BMI grants different labels depending on the values obtained in each individual. There are four categories: low weight (a value below 18.5), normal weight or weight appropriate to size (between 18.5 and 24.9), overweight (between 25 and 29.9) and obesity (from 30; it will be type 1 obesity up to a BMI of 35, type 2 up to 39.9, morbid obesity if the BMI is between 40 and 49.9, and extreme obesity from a BMI of 50)

To better explain the problem, we can think of two people who weigh and measure the same: the Body Mass Index is the same for both, but they can be very different from each other if one of them has 40% body fat and the other has 18% Or think of a heavyweight boxer: while your BMI will indicate that you are overweight or obese, the reality is that you will not suffer from these problems or the physiological complications that may arise from them since your excess weight derives from your muscle mass

The great danger of the Body Mass Index occurs with the allocation of attributes that do not correspond to reality. Classifying people exclusively based on this result forgets the importance of the physical constitution of each individual, regardless of eating habits or diseases suffered. There are people whose constitution makes them below 18.5 points or above 25 without any risk.

"The great danger of the Body Mass Index occurs with the allocation of attributes that do not correspond to reality ” 

The sensitivity of the Body Mass Index is very low since it is also unable to detect the cases of those who have an excessive percentage of body fat but are in "normal" from the BMI. This relationship is common in cases of childhood obesity, at ages when it is essential to detect situations of high risk to our health.

Doesn't the BMI help us anymore? Why have we trusted the BMI so long?

Almost as the only positive argument, it is common that when we observe extreme cases, they correspond to the category assigned to them by the BMI. “Excessively low or excessively high BMI values, for example, a BMI of 16 or 40, are telling us, quite likely, that there is indeed a problem, because based on muscle mass or physical complexion it is difficult to reach weights as low or as high, respectively, for the corresponding size, ”explains the nutritionist.

“The BMI has been used a lot of time because it is quick to do and can give us an idea as to the health of the person, but it should not help us to assess health by taking the data in isolation; we must take into account if that person is active, if he eats well, if he has adequate biochemical parameters (glucose, uric acid, triglycerides, liver enzymes ...), etc.: all these factors together, can help us determine the health of a person".
The fundamental differences between BMI and the new way of measuring overweight

An example of a change in mentality regarding BMI is suggested by nutritionist Alex Gimenez. “These types of measurements are incredibly outdated, unhelpful and not reliable. With the technological advances that many professionals still have, they use these measurements because it is “normal and lifelong”. In my case, for example, I have been using a biomolecular scanner for a long time that can tell you in 2 seconds the exact composition of food or your own body with levels of fat and muscle mass included. 


"The BMI is unable to detect cases that have too much body fat but are within a normal index ”


What can we expect from this new measure? 


The new BVI measures weight distribution as a ratio between total volume and abdominal volume. Its developers think it is more accurate than BMI because it estimates the distribution of weight around an individual's organs, which helps assess the risk of some diseases. Clearly, the BVI works with less superficial information than BMI.

"The idea of BVI was born from the understanding that the use of external measurements was only one piece of the puzzle, and instead of simply accepting this as the standard, we also needed to measure internal factors," said Richard Barnes, director of Select Research.


Marta Cendón puts the focus on waist circumference, as well as the relationship between waist and hip, parameters that are related to worse health because they have been identified as cardiovascular risk factors.

"The idea of BVI was born from the understanding that the use of external measurements was only a piece of the puzzle, and instead of simply accepting this as the standard, we also needed to measure internal factors. ”

The values of waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio have been used for years to assess the patient's health. In addition, they can (and usually) be accompanied by other altered values such as triglycerides, glucose, fatty liver ... because that excess contour is usually due to an imbalance in food and/or a sedentary lifestyle. Although there are also certain pathologies, genetic factors, etc., that can contribute to a person having an increased waist, or an excess of fat, despite a healthy lifestyle, these are minority cases- ”, Cendón clarifies.

Together with the BVI Pro application, BVI America is launching an initiative called #SpeakVolumes to educate and encourage professionals to change the way they measure and talk about body composition with their patients. The application is now available to experts, and patients can already take advantage of its benefits.
The fundamental differences between BMI and the new way of measuring overweight



"BVI America is launching an initiative called #SpeakVolumes to educate and encourage professionals to change the way they measure and talk about body composition with their patients ”

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