For years, doctors and dieticians have used the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine whether people are at their happy weight. But the latest thinking shows that this measurement – which looks at a person’s height in relation to their weight, in order to determine if they have any kilos to lose – is not always accurate.
‘The BMI shouldn’t be utterly disregarded, but it does need to be interpreted correctly,’ says René Smalberger, president of the Association of Dietetics of South Africa (ADSA). ‘In the medical field, we have other tools that can help us determine if a person is overweight. It’s also important to look at the person being assessed – in some cases, for example, body builders and athletes, the test won’t be correct because of their abnormally high muscle mass.’ But these challenges will soon become a thing of the past, thanks to a new test called the Body Volume Index (BVI), which may replace the BMI altogether.
The BVI is a far more comprehensive measure, as it considers factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, medical history and genetic risks. And the BVI scanner can also identify the parts of the body where fat is actually stored, as well as the effects this might have on your health. According to Smalberger, the BVI measure is still very new and not being used in SA yet. ‘The concept is good, as it will provide much more detailed, accurate information about a person’s weight,’ she says.