Ask The Expert: What Is ‘BMI’ Exactly? And Does It REALLY Matter?

Find out how accurate it is (or not) from an in-the-know doctor from IMC.
27 March 2020

It’s not just about how much you weigh.

Here, Dr. Sundus Morgan of International Medical Clinic (IMC) explains BMI…

BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It gives you an idea of how your weight compares to common values, and is calculated by dividing your weight (in kilogrammes) by the square of your height (in metres). These are the weight ranges:

• Underweight: BMI is less than 18.5
• Normal weight: BMI is 18.5 to 24.9
• Overweight: BMI is 25 to 29.9
• Obese: BMI is 30 or more

Why do doctors look at BMI?
It allows them to objectively look at weight, and evaluate how this affects risk of diseases linked to obesity or being underweight. BMI can also be helpful when discussing treatment options and healthy lifestyle measures, such as increasing your activity level in sustainable ways or finding a sport you enjoy.

However, it is limited in that the measurement is based on an average distribution of body fat, including “intra-abdominal fat” – the fat deep inside your stomach cavity, rather than under your skin. This intra-abdominal fat has been linked to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. People of Asian origin, have higher intra-abdominal fat, so BMI calculations will give inaccurately lower readings.

For this reason, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that some Asians should be considered overweight if their BMI is 22 to 25, and obese with a BMI of 26 to 31. Those who are muscular may also have inaccurate BMI, as their body fat levels are lower. For people over 60, muscle mass tends to drop and body fat rises, so this will affect their BMI calculation, too.

Are there alternatives to BMI measurements?
Other options include waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratios, which take into account intra-abdominal fat and abdominal waist circumference. You can find support for managing your BMI with other health screenings and checks. If you are concerned about your BMI or weight, then do consult your doctor for a thorough assessment to determine if further measurements and investigations are needed and to formulate a plan together on how to improve your weight with realistic and sustainable changes.

Dr. Morgan is a U.K.-qualified doctor who graduated from Kings College, London. She holds a Diploma of the Faculty of Family Planning (DFFP) and a Diploma in Clinical Dermatology (DipDerm). Dr. Morgan practised in London and Manchester for 8 years before moving to Singapore in 2008 where she has practised as a GP to the local and international communities.

Expat Medical Clinic | International Medical Clinic (IMC)

International Medical Clinic (IMC)
1 Orchard Blvd., Camden Medical Centre, #14-06248649
Other IMC locations include Jelita Shopping Centre and Katong Square.
Tel: 6733 4440

From The Finder (Issue 302), March 2020

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