What measures up better than BMI

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A new tool that’s used to provide you with additional information about your body composition and weight distribution is a more accurate indication of health compared with a measurement that has been used by health-care professionals for years, its developers say.

Body volume indicator (BVI) is calculated as a ratio between total volume and abdominal volume. Body mass index (BMI) is based on height and weight. Dr. Jose Medina-Inojosa, who was a part of the team at Mayo Clinic that helped to develop BVI, says obesity is more than a state of being heavy or weighing more than another person who is your age and gender, which is the basis for BMI. He says BMI became less useful as scientists learned that obesity keys on the location of your body fat and the amount of fat that you have. “BMI gives wrong information from some populations. Just using those two measurements as a tool to diagnose and to screen for obesity is sometimes confusing,” Medina-Inojosa says.

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, who is a professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine, says two people who have 25 percent body fat might be in different health circumstances if one of them had fat sitting in his/her belly rather than elsewhere, which increases his/her risk of metabolic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension.

Two types of fat exist: subcutaneous fat (brown fat) and visceral fat (white fat), which is the type to which Cucuzzella refers in his example. He says it’s important that people understand that not all fat is bad. Brown fat is metabolically active. White fat is inflammatory and increases the risk of metabolic diseases.

BVI takes into account your belly and hips. If your hips are larger than your belly is, then you are protected from diseases, because you have less belly fat that’s detrimental. Medina-Inojosa says the fat and mass that you put under your belly, basically in your hips, is protective, because the fat that’s around the hip area doesn’t produce harmful molecules.