Beyond BMI: Exploring the Limitations & Future of Obesity Measurement

Jul 7. 2023

Body Mass Index (BMI) has long been a widely used tool for understanding obesity. Nonetheless, recent research underscores its limitations and the necessity to seek alternative approaches for measuring body fat distribution and discerning the complexity of obesity. In this blog post, we will plunge into the history of BMI, identify its failings, and discuss prospective future directions for research in obesity. Understand the importance of accurate obesity measurement and stay updated with the most recent progressions in weight management and healthcare.

History of BMI:

The conception of BMI originated in the 19th century through the work of Lambert Adolphe Francois Quetelet, a Belgian polymath, statistician, and astronomer. He proposed a mathematical method for estimating human body size independent of height, later known as the Quetelet Index or BMI. The BMI has served as a beneficial estimation of weight in relation to height over the years and has been utilized to trace the epidemic of obesity.

Limitations of BMI:

Despite its widespread usage, BMI exhibits several shortcomings:

  • It fails to measure body fat distribution, which is likely to serve as a more crucial guide to the risk of excess adiposity than the BMI itself.
  • BMI does not provide an accurate measurement of body fat, thereby limiting its application in diagnosing obesity or excess adiposity in individual patients.
  • BMI does not offer insights into the heterogeneity of obesity or its genetic, metabolic, physiological, or psychological origins.

Further Approaches for Obesity Measurement:

When individual patient management is concerned, BMI should ideally be supplemented with other measures of obesity. Assessments may include techniques such as waist circumference measurement and body composition analysis via a bioelectrical impedance scale. It can provide a more accurate and holistic view of a patient’s body composition.

Special Consideration for Children:

For children and teens, BMI-for-age percentile growth charts are the most commonly used indicators to measure size and track growth patterns. This approach allows for a comparison of a child’s BMI with that of other children of the same age and sex.

Obesity Complications:

Understanding the severity of obesity’s impact worldwide requires us to acknowledge that it is linked with numerous complications, including type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and certain types of cancer, like gynecology cancer. Obesity increases the risk of these diseases and conditions, both with modest and significant weight gains. It is independently associated with heart disease, hypoxia, sleep apnea, hernia, and arthritis, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

Social and Emotional Implications:

Obesity may also bring on severe social consequences, including discrimination. The emotional suffering associated with obesity may be among its most painful aspects. It can have severe impacts on a person’s self-esteem and overall mental health.

Future Directions:

Given BMI’s limitations, researchers have explored alternative methods to better grasp obesity and its underlying mechanics. Some of these include:

  • Genome-wide association studies (GWAS): With over 1,700 genes related to an increased BMI identified, the complexity and heterogeneity of obesity are highlighted.
  • Multifaceted research: Studies exploring the relationship between multiple chemical, genetic, and clinical markers as predictors of BMI can help unravel new insights into the factors contributing to obesity.


While BMI has been an instrumental tool in tracking the obesity epidemic, it’s vital to be mindful of its limitations and explore alternative approaches for a more in-depth understanding and addressing of obesity. By embracing comprehensive methods and research, we can delve deeper into the factors contributing to obesity and design more effective strategies to combat this escalating health concern.

If you have concerns about your health, don’t hesitate to take action. GluCare.Health is here to support you and your family with our experienced Pediatric & Adult Endocrinologist, who specializes in diagnosing and treating hormonal imbalances, obesity, and other endocrine-related issues. To book an appointment, simply call 04-2201570 or 800GLUCARE. Additionally, we invite you to subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter, GluCare Chronicles, for valuable insights, tips, and the latest news in overall health. 

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