By now you’ve likely heard many arguments explaining the limits of BMI.
It doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle. Nor does it distinguish where the distribution of fat lies – is it the extra dangerous abdominal fat near your organs, or is your fat more evenly distributed throughout other parts of the body?
The correlation between BMI and mortality is shaky, and unsupported by much of the available data.
When we throw in the phenomena of Metabolically Healthy Obesity(present in approximately 30% of BMI Classified Obese Individuals), things get even muddier. Much of this is due to body fat distribution and composition.
It’s easy to see the limitations of a simple numbered chart, based on height and weight only, in such a diverse population of humans.
Is there a better way?
Enter ABSI – A Body Shape Index.
In 2012, a paper published in PLOS ONE purported to have found a way to predict risk of mortality independent of BMI, and minimally correlated with height to weight, or even to waist circumference alone.
ABSI relies heavily on Waist Circumference in relation to height, or rather, “Body Roundness” as a predictor of premature death.
For example, a waist that is proportionate on a very tall man or woman would seem absolute enormous on a much shorter person. ABSI works in much the same way that Waist to Hip Ratio does, using proportion and distribution as its main indicators.
Without making your eyes glaze over with numbers and statistics, let me just say that, so far, the findings seem to indicate that ABSI is a better and more reliable indicator of future ills than BMI alone.
BMI does still hold somewhat relevant for much of the general population, but we could be looking at a much more accurate standard in the near future.
So why not use every tool at your disposal?
To find out your ABSI, you can use this formula:
A risk result greater than 1 indicates greater than average death rate while numbers below 1 indicate a lower than average rate.
For example, I have a relative risk of 0.7, compared to the average 35 year old female. This means I have a 30% lowered risk of premature death and related disease.
If you have reason to distrust your math skills, an easy to use calculator can be found here.
Keep your ears and eyes out for more information on ABSI. We’re going to be hearing a lot more about it in the future. In all likelihood, ABSI, replacing BMI, will become the new gold standard.