Obesity, BMI and political correctness

Interesting Read:

The BMI was developed in 1850 by Adolphe Quetelet — a mathematician and sociologist. The BMI is a number derived by taking the weight of a person in pounds and dividing it by the square of their height in inches (weight divided by height times height). This number is then multiplied by 703. This gives the BMI value.

A value lower than 18.5 is considered by some to mean that a person is underweight. Normal weight is a value between 18.5 and 25, overweight if more than 25 and obesity if more than 30. Yet, who decides that these values determine if one is underweight, overweight or obese?

The average BMI the United States used to define being overweight was more than 27.8 — significantly higher than today’s 25. However, under pressure from the World Health Organization — which defined the number 25 as being the upper-limit for normal weight — it was based on their evaluation of world populations including Africa, India and other Third-World areas where there is endemic malnutrition if not outright starvation.

Based on this evaluation, our government changed what it called overweight to mean a BMI value of 25. Thus, with the wave of the wand 30 million Americans were made overweight in one day.


What’s more interesting in this CDC press release is the obvious ignoring the fact that the BMI was lowered in 1998 – just 1 year before the increase in male obesity they noted.

Among men, there was an increase in obesity prevalence between 1999 and 2006. However, there was no significant change in obesity prevalence between 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 for either men or women.

“Since 1999, there appears to have been a leveling off in obesity among women, but the trend is less clear among men. We do know however that the gap between men and women has narrowed in recent years, with men catching up to the higher rates among women,” said Cynthia Ogden, a CDC researcher and lead author of the study.

“In view of these alarmingly high rates of obesity in all population groups, CDC has made the prevention of obesity one of its top public health priorities,” said Janet Collins, director of CDC′s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “We are actively working in partnership with state and local public health agencies, the nation′s schools, community organizations, businesses, medical systems and faith communities to promote and support healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight.”

The full report is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs.


~ by swfreedomlover on November 28, 2007.

5 Responses to “Obesity, BMI and political correctness”

  1. There is someething wrong with either the food or lifestyle in parts of Western civilization.

    I tend to think it is a combination of both food and lifestyle. First the food is all made less than naturally (and I understand some of the changes were for good reason). But injecting hormones and hybrid foods leave me wondering if that isn’t the first part of the problem.

    Secondly is lifestyle and I think this is the largest part of the problem. Many people cannot walk two blocks to the store to get groceries, they have to drive everywhere. Many people plant themselves in front of the TV each night and never do anything else with their time. Restaurants are geared towards making us obese. Restaurants can charge more money by providing more food so we wind up with a huge slab of meat on our plate with a baked potato the size of a small watermelon and we slather the butter on in thick slices then complain about how expensive food is. Or else we love to go to buffets where we can (and are eager to) ovewrindulge in eating any of a hundred different types of food.

    I’d much rather go to a restaurant that served a nice meal in reasonably sized portions and charged accordingly. Those places are few and far between.

  2. I find it interesting to note that the CDC report makes no mention of the change in the BMI level. It leads one to believe they are in league with the drug companies, after all, didn’t we see a drastic increase in diet pills and things just after this came out?

    Not that I am paranoid or anything, but it seems to me the drug companies can spread so much money around that they can have any agenda they want made fact. Isn’t that called “Junk Science”?

    I do believe that we all should get out and WALK more. The world could use a lot less exhaust from vehicles on a daily basis for sure, however, when Junk Science is labeled as fact, or even good science, we are all in trouble and nothing we do will make it better. Those without conscience, whether it be the CDC, Big Pharma, or any number of other special interest groups are here to stay. They can and will skewer results to suit their agenda, PERIOD!

  3. Hi. A few quick notes which may be pertinent to this post..

    The analysts normalise for changes in definition when they analyse trends.

    Secondly to say “which defined the number 25 as being the upper-limit for normal weight — it was based on their evaluation of world populations including Africa, India and other Third-World areas where there is endemic malnutrition if not outright starvation” kind of misses the point and is an incomplete argument.

    The cut-off BMIs for triggering of obesity-related co-morbidities for Asians (at 23, set by the verisame WHO which appears to the villain of the piece in the link) is far lower than that for Caucasians (at 30). So to suggest that the categorisation was somehow skewed because people in the 3rd world starve is a bit naive.

    Besides to lump Africa (a continent) with India (a country) with fairly diverse “third world” countries (which if you just consider SE Asia are mainly very trim people with a rich food tradition and most of them do not starve) is beyond ignorant. It is exactly the kind of rhetoric which means that the dominant agendas in obesity never quite get disentangled.

    Thanks for letting me post here. Although my link shows differently, I also write a multifaceted blog on Obesity which may be of interest:


    More about me can be found in the About section of the blog.


  4. Thanks for your comment. Very interesting.

    However, I would like to point out that I was simply quoting what I found, not voicing a professional or authoritative commentary.

    I just noticed that our obesity epidemic seems to coincide with the lowering of OUR BMI numbers. I wasn’t even aware that it was done based on the WHO to put us on par with International Trends.

    I went looking for something only because I’m bombarded daily with the latest and greatest media fare of “obesity”, and remembered that the BMI was lowered, something the media conveniently keeps leaving out.

  5. stefaly,

    I won’t be going to your site simply because I feel your comments are rude to THIS blogger. You could have put things a LOT nicer. Again, maybe you should read what the person writes and notice that She is referring to articles published, not personal opinions except where she feels appropriate. I would have enjoyed your post except for the derogatory nature.

    Just my two cents….


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