ABSI to replace BMI?

The BMI acronyms will be the most familiar among weight-watchers. Even not weight-watchers would have heard of it – the Body Mass Index used as an indication if you are underweight, just right or overweight.

Body Mass Index (BMI) = Weight in kilograms/(height in metres)2

Unfortunately, the BMI has its flaws; it is not a great predictor of an individual’s risk of disease.  The weight range considered ideal for each height is wide and the BMI doesn’t tell you where the bulk of your weight is either. Therefore, experts have summarized 3 reasons why BMI is a poor measure of your health:

  1. BMI does not differentiate between the fat and muscles. It just tells you your weight but it can’t tell if your weight comes from being a muscular The Terminator or a lumpy Michelin Man
  2. BMI does not differentiate between the apple-shaped and pear-shaped individuals
  3. BMI does not always reflect a change in lifestyle

Due to the flaws of the BMI, researchers at City College of New York have developed a new formula they call “A Body Shape Index”, or ABSI. Nir and Jesse Krakauer, introduced ABSI to the world when they took the best components of BMI and waist circumference to come up with a new method of measuring obesity. Their formula takes into account height, weight and waist circumference to develop a metric.

Body Shape Index (ABSI) = Waist circumference/[(BMI2/3)*(height in metres1/2)]

You could say that the ABSI is a more ‘comprehensive’ formula as its calculation encompasses the BMI and waist circumference to determine if you are obese. The ABSI was derived taking the weight circumference into consideration as the American National Institutes of Health have long associated a large waistline with a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. A waistline >35” for women and >40” for men would significantly increase the risk of premature death due to these health complications.

The ABSI has already been welcomed by nutritionists, who found that the omission of body composition in the calculation of BMI makes it less accurate for health risks prediction. Researchers admit that it is a bit too early to determine if a lower ABSI would be an indication of good health but experts do agree that weight loss, especially around the waist, will help people in their fight against an early death brought upon by ailments.

To calculate your ABSI, use this ABSI calculator. A relative risk > 1 indicates greater than average death rate while numbers < 1 indicate a lower than average rate. For example, 1.2 indicates a 20% greater risk than average while 0.8 indicates a 20% lower risk.

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