What does BMI Stand for?

Definition and Meaning

BMI stands for Body Mass Index. What Originally termed the Quetelet Index as developed by a Belgian mathematician, astronomer and statistician Adolphe Quetelet in 1832 and renamed “Body Mass Index (BMI)” by Ancel Keys in 1972, BMI bases its relative-size measurement on an individual’s mass and height. It is considered a convenient surrogate body-fat measure due to being simple, inexpensive and noninvasive regardless of how it is measured and taking the age, sex, ethnicity and muscle mass into no account.

Interpreting BMI among adults 20 years and older uses standard weight-status categories universal across all age groups and to both men and women. It is interpreted relative to age and sex for children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 20 years old and is considered a reasonable body-fat indicator at any age. However, since it does not directly measure body fat, it is not considered a diagnostic tool by the medical community, but instead a population’s tracking measure of overall weight status and individual weight-problem screening tool. Though widely observed, such body-fat measures as bioelectrical impedance, underwater weighing, dual-energy X-ray absorption and skinfold thicknesses are often considered more accurate indicators than BMI.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has come to recognize a potential need for ethnically specific BMI cut-off measures to uniquely designate underweight, overweight, obese and ideal-weight individuals – a consideration that remains up for deepening debate. Those supporting relative cut-off points note that populations often display differing associations between body fat distribution, body fat percentages, and BMI which sometimes validate significant health risks even below the standardized 25 kg/m2 measure that the WHO designates as “overweight”. An expert WHO consultation has also found that type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk factors increase substantially among Asian men, women, and children with BMIs significantly lower than the objective cut-off point.

In fact, the observed risk cut-off among various Asian populations varies between 22 kg/m2 and 25 kg/m2 and the high-risk measure ranges between 26 kg/m2 and 31 kg/m2, a finding that seemingly bears out both using all categories in all countries for reporting purposes and adding new cut-off points for public health action.

Terms related to BMI

  • What does BMI mean?
  • Body mass index formula
  • Body mass index chart
  • what is my BMI?

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