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question

What are the limitations of the body mass index (BMI) assessment?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Marjorie Nolan Cohn on behalf of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Nutrition & Dietetics
answer

For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat.

It is important to remember that although BMI correlates with the amount of body fat, BMI does not directly measure body fat. As a result, some people, such as athletes, may have a BMI that identifies them as overweight even though they do not have excess body fat.

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
answer
The body mass index is merely a ratio of weight to height.  Therefore, it does not take body composition into account.  This means that this assessment does not account for whether your weight is predominantly fat or muscle.  It is possible to be very fit and muscular and be considered “overweight” based on your BMI.  However, for the general public, body composition is a fairly accurate estimate of whether or not you fall into a healthy weight range.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.