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How We Came to Rely on BMI to Determine Disease Risk

So, how did the medical establishment come to rely so much on standards that cause some people to be misclassified as having an unhealthy weight?

The first «ideal weight» tables were developed during the 1940s by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as a way to predict how long those who held their life insurance policies might live.

“If we think about historically what was going on in the 1940s, there was only one demographic that was being insured by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and that was white individuals,” says Stanford. The practice continued over the next few decades.

In 1972, the physiologist Ancel Keys popularized the term “body mass index” in a study article published in the Journal of Chronic Diseases, based on a calculation developed by the 19th century mathematician Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. Keys criticized the ideal-weight tables developed by insurance companies, along with other weight measures, as inadequate. 2 Female Fat Burning Supplements. He determined that BMI is a superior way to measure relative body weight, but his study population was all-male and heavily middle-aged, composed of American, European — and to a lesser degree — Japanese and Black South African men.

In 1973, with information from the Fogarty International Center Conference on Obesity at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NHANES data, the current BMI tables were developed, as Stanford describes in the letter to the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The concept of an ideal — still frequently framed as “normal” — weight had persisted. In 1985, NIH began using body mass index to measure body fat, and it became widely used in medicine.

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