The concept of a body mass index (BMI) has long been the standard for judging whether or not a person is considered healthy, but a new study out of City College of New York’s (CCNY) Grove School of Engineering has shown that a better indicator or risk of mortality may be A Body Shape Index (ABSI). BMI uses a simple formula to decide into which weight category a person may fall and thus acts as a predictor for certain health problems (include stroke, diabetes, and heart conditions).  “Normal” BMI for a woman is between 18.5 and 24.9.

This number is calculated by looking at the ratio between height and weight, but the results are not always accurate as far as predicting health outcomes.

CCNY researchers Dr. Nik Krakauer and Dr. Jesse Krakauer looked at statistical data for 7,011 adults who had participated in two surveys on health and lifestyle (HALS). These two surveys were taken seven years apart. They found that patients who carried more fat around their mid-section (had an ASBI in the top 20%) had an incidence of death that was 61% higher than those patients with a smaller waistline (had an ASBI in the lowest 20%). BMI simply measures a ratio of height to weight, but ASBI looks closely at where the weight is stored and how. Extra belly fat and extra fat carried in the thighs and hips generally correlate with a significant increase in death.

“One criticism leveled at BMI is that it doesn’t distinguish muscle and fat mass, so that it doesn’t tell you if you have too much fat,” said Dr. Nir Krakauer.

The results from Drs. Krakauer fell in line with a similar study conducted in the United States between 1999 and 2004. This study, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), also found that a risk of premature death strongly coincided with where fat was stored on the body, and that ASBI was a better predictor of this outcome than BMI.

The good news from both studies is that when participants changed their body shape, their risk of mortality dropped accordingly. It is possible to make positive and permanent changes to your health, and measuring ASBI seems to be a good place to start.

Visit CCNY’s ASBI calculator and see where you stand. What changes do you need to make?

Image by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr


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