Is the BMI racist?

admin | 6/11/2012, 8 a.m.

Popular obesity measures not created for Black women, experts say

Exactly how much weight a person can carry around before they are at a high risk for developing obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes, cholesterol and heart disease was assumed to be an easy answer that could be applied to everyone by using the BMI (a way to measure body fat based upon an individuals health and weight). According to conventional wisdom, a BMI of 30 or higher indicates a person is obese and is thus at higher risk. However, studies in recent years have shown that the BMI standard is incorrect for Black women. A 2010 study found that the high risk threshold for Black women was a BMI of 33. The study measured the BMI and waist circumference of approximately 2100 white women and 1800 Black women. It also found that Black womens high risk waistline was approximately 38 inches. The standard waist measurement for women was considered to be 35 inches. In a previous interview the studys author, Peter Katzmarzyk stated, "The study clearly shows we have these racial differences in body fat, not just in the type of body fat but where the fat is stored, and these are important differences. The BMI has been criticized for years as being an inaccurate measurement for obesity and the risks for being overweight. So, the fact that the BMI is not accurately portraying the health risk of minorities and white women, did not surprize Mary Hartley, a registered dietician and online nutrition consultant. When the BMI charts were made they used really good math but most of the standards used were for white men, she explained. They really did not research enough into different races and women too. Despite the inaccuracy of BMI, Hartley noted that individuals should not think they should be unconcerned about their weight. [These findings] still dont mean that obesity is not a problem in the Black community, she said. According to the U.S. Department of Health, four out of five Black women are overweight and obese. The agency also found that one in four Black women over the age of 55 has diabetes and are more likely than any woman to develop high blood pressure and heart disease. To get a better understanding of your overall health Hartley suggested being tested for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes directly or consulting a physician. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com