(WTVO) — The American Medical Association (AMA) says the body mass index (BMI) measurement standard is “racist” because it was designed based on white bodies in the 19th century.
The AMA, the U.S. largest organization of doctors, has issued a new policy that does away with using the body mass index (BMI) as the sole standard to determine healthy body weight.
Doctors have used the BMI to measure body fatness and predict obesity-related health risks for 200 years.
But, the AMA’s new policy claims the standard is “indirect and imperfect” because of its use for “racist exclusion.”
The AMA Council on Science and Public health found that “BMI does not appropriately represent racial and ethnic minorities” because it is based on “the imagined ideal Caucasian” of the 19th century, and does not take into consideration a person’s gender or ethnicity.
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.”
The BMI’s originator, Belgian mathematician Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, was not a doctor and used a sample of what was available to him: white, European men in the 1800’s, to determine that the body weight of a “normal man” was proportional to his height.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an adult with a BMI of less than 18.5 to 24.9 are categorized as “healthy weight,” with someone with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered “overweight” and 30 or more is “obese.”
The AMA found that the BMI scale does not consider how fat is stored in different body types across ethnic groups, sexes, and ages.
The report says “healthy” Asian women were double at risk for type 2 diabetes, even with the same BMI as white women.
“South Asians, in particular, have especially high levels of body fat and are more prone to developing abdominal obesity [than whites], which may account for their very high risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” the AMA wrote.
“In contrast, some studies have found that blacks have lower body fat and higher lean muscle mass than whites at the same BMI, and therefore, may be at lower risk of obesity-related diseases,” the report continued.
The AMA’s report recommends using the BMI calculation along with other measurements, including waist circumference, body composition, and genetic or metabolic factors.
“Numerous comorbidities, lifestyle issues, gender, ethnicities, medically significant familial-determined mortality effectors, duration of time one spends in certain BMI categories and the expected accumulation of fat with aging are likely to significantly affect the interpretation of BMI data, particularly in regard to morbidity and mortality rates,” said the AMA.
The AMA’s guidelines have a major impact on the ways in which medicine is practiced in the U.S.