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What’s the Big Deal About BMI?: February 26, 2014

No way around it. Vinnie Munoz is a big guy. In fact, he works at it constantly.

“Lift every day, 5-6 days. Just eat healthy, eat clean. Right now I’m at 2,100 calories a day and I eat chicken, vegetables, six times a day - small meals, 4-5 ounces,” says Munoz, weight lifter.

But would you call him obese? According to the standard BMI calculator, Munoz is way over the line.

“BMI is body mass index and that is calculated as the weight in kilograms over the height in meters squared. The body mass index is essentially an easy way to assess someone’s weight status,” says Dr. Brian Taschner, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

The BMI is one of the most frequently referenced methods of determining whether someone’s weight is: appropriate, underweight, overweight or obese. A valid, helpful tool, experts agree you shouldn’t overweigh its importance.

“The body mass index does not apply well to very athletic people; a big guy that is muscular. Someone like that, that has an elevated BMI if you wanted to look further into it, you could look at waist circumference or body fat percentage,” says Dr. Taschner.

It has to do with the density of muscle over fat. They weigh the same, but a pound of muscle occupies less space than a pound of fat, so athletes may have more compact muscle and less actual fat.

Evaluating children can also be tricky.

“Because they’re growing all the time and because the body fat distribution is different in girls vs. boys, there are specific charts so for children and teenager they plot them, they calculate BMI and plot it on chart to get a percentile,” says Dr. Taschner.

An accurate weight status is important as it pertains to health risk.

“There’s a clear correlation with higher BMIs and bad outcomes. More heart attacks, more strokes, more sleep apnea, more high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” says Dr. Taschner.

Not a one-size fits all measurement- those who fall into a questionable category should take it a step further.

“If you actually went into a doctor and they measured your fat ratio in kilobars would be a lot more intentional. It’s a good screening tool - but you have to look at the individual as well,” says Munoz.