In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service has decided that people who smoke or who are obsese will be restricted from some health services. In support of this policy, they claim that people who smoke or are obese increase health costs, and to rein in these costs, it is important to use the power of government to change their behavior “for the public good.”
The health service is using body mass index (BMI) as the metric: Those with a body mass index over 40 must reduce the number by 15% over that time period, and those with a BMI over 30 are given a target of 10%. I have never agreed with using BMI for anything. To get an idea of why I feel this way, let’s use some professional athletes to illustrate why BMI is not an accurate measurement of obesity:
This is a link to the roster of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a professional hockey team made up of athletes from all over the world, most of whom are also on their country’s Olympic team. They are provided, as part of the team, with a full time nutritionist, the best medical care available, and they each work out 6-8 hours a day. In other words, they are in the 99.9th percentile of health.
At 5’ 10” and 190 pounds, Gabriel Dumont, is considered to be overweight with a BMI of 27.3. Just 19 more pounds from his weight as a professional athlete, and he would be considered too fat to receive medical care. No wonder the UK says that 63% of adults are obese! How many of us have a professional nutritionist, and work out at a professional level for the 8 hours a day required to maintain the physique of a professional athlete? Even with all of that, he is STILL considered to be overweight.
Run the BMI numbers for the rest of the team, and you will see that they are ALL overweight by the BMI standard. Consider Cedrick Pauquette, who at 6’1” and 198 pounds comes in with a BMI of 26.1. Does he look overweight to you?