How reliable is BMI?

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BMI is commonly used to assess how healthy we are, but how reliable is BMI as a measure of health?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is frequently used to measure health. This involves comparing your weight in relation to your height to give you an indication of your weight status.  It will categorise you as being either underweight, overweight, obese or healthy. Although widely used, BMI is often argued to be inaccurate as it doesn’t take into account muscle mass, age, sex, ethnicity and fitness levels. Even with a ‘healthy’ BMI, you could still be at risk of developing illnesses such as heart diseases, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

A more accurate indicator of health is the waist-to-hip ratio, found by dividing waist width by hip width. A wider waist circumference gives you an indication of total body fat as well as the level of visceral fat. Visceral fat is essentially body fat stored within the abdominal cavity; the internal fat that surrounds the organs.

There is a growing body of research which suggests that visceral fat or so-called ‘belly fat’ is the most dangerous type of fat, with it being linked to chronic diseases such as cancers, heart diseases and diabetes-related illnesses. Furthermore, visceral fat levels have even been suggested to predict type 2 diabetes, although this is a warning sign more commonly displayed in women rather than men.

Factors which contribute to increased visceral fat levels include lifestyle habits such as stress and exercise habits; dietary contributors and demographics such as age, ethnicity and even gender.

Presence of a blood analyte (or component) called adiponectin is closely linked with visceral fat levels.  An ever-increasing number of clinical studies highlight that lower levels of adiponectin indicate higher levels of visceral fat. Adiponectin levels can be tested to give you an accurate measurement of the level of visceral fat you are carrying.

In short, monitoring visceral fat levels is a much more accurate measure of risk of a number of diseases including cancers, CVD and diabetes than BMI; which does not take into account muscle mass, age, sex, ethnicity and fitness level.  A true measure of visceral fat levels can be measured using the adiponectin test, which can be requested from your doctor today!

For health professionals

Adiponectin is an adipokine exclusively secreted by adipocytes which has an important role in a number of metabolic processes such as fatty acid oxidation and glucose regulation.

Randox Adiponectin assay is an automated biochemistry assay for the measurement of adiponectin in serum or plasma, and is available for use on most biochemistry analysers.   For more information, please contact us: