The American Medical Association (AMA) has raised concerns regarding the historical harm caused by the utilization of the body mass index (BMI) metric for “racist exclusion.”
In a recent paper titled “Use of BMI alone is an imperfect clinical measure,” the AMA now claims the imperfections of BMI as a measure of weight, claiming it does not directly assess body fat percentages.
BMI is a flawed measure, but complaining that it doesn't differentiate between fat mass & muscle mass, when most people have near zero of the latter, is obfuscatory pandering.
AMA asks doctors to de-emphasize use of BMI in gauging health and obesity https://t.co/PNc9MqSwaZ
— Paul Kedrosky (@pkedrosky) June 14, 2023
Founded in 1847, the AMA serves as a prominent lobbying group for over 270,000 physicians and medical students. Its influence is substantial, with The New Yorker reporting it has invested a staggering $462 million in lobbying efforts since 1998, exceeded only by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, and the American Hospital Association.
On June 14, the AMA published a comprehensive report addressing the limitations of BMI.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines BMI as a ratio of weight to height, serving as a reliable indicator of body fat percentage.
However, the AMA Council on Science and Public Health report emphasizes the need to consider various factors, including comorbidities, lifestyle, gender, ethnicity, and family history in order to accurately interpret the data.
Critics claim the BMI metric is inherently racist and sexist. According to the left-leaning news website Quartz, data used for developing the index in the 1830s by Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet primarily consisted of information from European white men, resulting in “skewed outcomes.”
In addition to addressing BMI concerns, the AMA has taken a firm stance in protecting gender-affirm care for transgender individuals. On June 12, the AMA House of Delegates passed a significant resolution to increase access to harmful gender-affirming surgeries.
The AMA’s condemnation of BMI will undoubtedly have unintended consequences. While aiming to promote inclusive healthcare practices, there is a concern that such actions could inadvertently downplay the significant health risks associated with obesity, which disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
BMI is a widely used measurement that calculates an individual’s weight in relation to their height. It provides a standardized approach to categorize individuals into various weight categories, such as underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese.
These categories have proven to be useful in determining the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and hypercholesterolemia, among others. The ability to predict and identify potential health issues based on BMI allows healthcare professionals to provide early interventions and preventive measures, ultimately improving patient outcomes.
By dismissing BMI as racist, the AMA undermines the extensive research that supports its usefulness while pushing a narrative that harms public health efforts. A more constructive approach would involve additional research and testing to be used in conjunction with the BMI index to improve health evaluations for everyone.