Body Mass index: A scientific evidence-based inquiry

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Objective - To objectively and critically assess body mass index and to propose alternatives for relating bodyweight and height that are evidence-based and that eliminate or reduce the limitations of the body mass index. Methods - To analyze the relations involving weight and height, we used 2 databases as follows: 1) children and adolescents from Brazil, the United States, and Switzerland; and 2) 538 university students. We performed mathematical simulations with height data ranging from 115 to 190 cm and weight data ranging from 25 to 105 kg. We selected 3 methods to analyze the relation of weight and height as follows: body mass index - weight (kg)/height (m2); reciprocal of the ponderal index - height (cm)/ weight1/3 (kg); and ectomorphy. Using the normal range from 20 to 25 kg/m2 for the body mass index in the reference height of 170 cm, we identified the corresponding ranges of 41 to 44 cm/kg1/3 for the reciprocal of the ponderal index, and of 1.45 to 3.60 for ectomorphy. Results - The mathematical simulations showed a strong association among the 3 methods with an absolute concordance to a height of 170 cm, but with a tendency towards discrepancy in the normal ranges, which had already been observed for the heights of 165 and 175 cm. This made the direct convertibility between the indices unfeasible. The reciprocal of the ponderal index and ectomorphy with their cut points comprised a larger age range in children and adolescents and a wider and more central range in the university students, both for the reported (current) and desired weights. Conclusion - The reciprocal of the ponderal index and ectomorphy are stronger and are more mathematically logical than body mass index; in addition, they may be applied with the same cut points for normal from the age of 5 1/2 years on.




Ricardo, D. R., & De Araújo, C. G. S. (2002). Body Mass index: A scientific evidence-based inquiry. Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia, 79(1), 70–78.

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