Friday, November 20, 2009

BMI as false clinical marker

I read a nice post by a medical student that is a great illustration of how BMI is being misused as a clinical marker. The sad thing is this is a lecture going on today. Lots of misinformation abounds and our future docs are being trained this way. (Please see the photo of the man with the "obese" BMI of 32...)
It reminds me of my friend who mentioned that every time she took her healthy, athletic son to the doctor, from birth to 6 years, she was told he is "obese." He is healthy, active, normal, eats well and is in no way at increased risk of illness. In fact, labeling him, or trying to change what they are doing is likely to cause more harm than good.
I wish I had known more about the Health at Every Size paradigm when I was in practice. I always felt something was off in how we dealt with weight concerns and wellness. Focusing on BMI and not behaviors means we misdiagnose some healthy people (with higher BMIs) as having problems, and we miss folks with "normal" BMIs who may be at greater risk for illness. It is a false marker in the vast majority of cases. Food for thought...


  1. It reminds me of a personal experience ! I was told by a school doctor at age 10 that I was "on the way to obesity, and that I was going to be a "grosse dondon" (no translation comes to my mind here !) at age 20". I let you be judge on that !

  2. argh! I hope no one listened to him. We have lost all common sense. Many girls get a bit thicker before puberty. This is a normal growth pattern and I hear lots of stories like this. being bought to the MD at age 11 or so for "weight gain" and starting a life of dieting and misery when things could have been left alone.