Tape may measure obesity better than BMI

There have been a lot of questions lately about whether a few extra pounds are hazardous to our health. Continuing this discussion, medical researchers are questioning if the universally accepted Body Mass Index (BMI) is truly an accurate measure in determining if someone is overweight. It may be that a simple measuring tape — measuring your hip-to-waist ratio — is the better way to show if you’re overweight or not.

Dr. Donald Cutlip, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, points out that while BMI — measuring height-to-weight ratio — might be beneficial in large population studies (where results are averaged), on an individual basis it can skew results in overly-buff (think bodybuilders) or elderly populations because of too much or too little muscle mass.

So, why look to the hip-to-waist ratio?

The answer is because “abdominal fat is more likely than fat stored in other spots to lead to changes in hormone levels and to cause inflammation, which in turn leads to clogged arteries,” says Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, director the University of Arizona’s Sarver Heart Center. So, “fat on a woman’s hips doesn’t seem to increase risk, whereas a beer belly does,” Ewy says. Well, that’s comforting news for me.

If you’re a woman, the waist-to-hip ratio should be no more than 0.8. For men, it’s 0.95. To see where you stand, calculate your hip-to-waist ratio (scroll down to chart midway through article) and BMI.

Author by Kristi Anderson