Body Mass Index Is Now Racist

The American Medical Association, the largest organization of doctors in the US, stated that the metric Body Mass Index is now considered racist.

A leading US medical organization is urging doctors to ditch body mass index (BMI) as the primary measurement for a healthy bodyweight, citing its ‘racist’ roots. 

The American Medical Association, the largest organization of doctors in the US, said the metric has been used for ‘racist exclusion’ and fails to consider differences in body composition that vary based on race and sex.

Body mass index (BMI), devised by a white man considering white bodies, is measured by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms or pounds by the square of height in meters or feet, and it has been deeply ingrained in the medical system as a way to measure population health more broadly.

But on an individual level, BMI does not take into consideration relative body shape and how fat is stored. For instance, Asian people who fall within a ‘healthy’ BMI range are still at a high risk of diabetes. 

The nation’s largest organization of doctors have argued that body mass index is an imperfect measurement that does not directly assess body fat and how body composition differs across racial and ethnic backgrounds

Meanwhile, black women tend to store fat around their hips and legs, whereas white women tend to store it around their midriff, which is more dangerous to their health – even though both may have a similar BMI.

The medical body voted last week to recommend that physicians take into consideration more than the ratio of a person’s height to their weight, instead measure a person’s visceral fat (considered to be the riskiest type that accumulates around the organs), the percentage of fat, bone, and muscle in one’s body, and genetic and metabolic factors such as abnormal blood sugar levels. 

The AMA Council on Science and Public Health said: ‘Our AMA recognizes: the issues with using body mass index (BMI) as a measurement because: (a) of the eugenics behind the history of BMI, (b) of the use of BMI for racist exclusion, and (c) BMI cutoffs are based on the imagined ideal Caucasian and does not consider a person’s gender or ethnicity.’

BMI was not devised by a doctor or other type of healthcare professional, but rather by a Belgian mathematician named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, who sought to measure the height and weight of the ‘average’ man based on a sample of white, European men.

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