Updated: May 26, 2021
If you Google “BMI is racist”, there’s no shortage of articles that pop up supporting this silly idea. Yes, it’s silly and I will elaborate on that…
Obesity has increased markedly over the recent years in Westernized civilizations. This isn’t good… Four out of every ten Americans are now classified as obese and it’s showing in health outcomes.
There are causal links between increases in body fat and comorbidities. This isn’t really debatable whatever the HAES movement likes to shout about this week. Some of the risks associated with an increase in body fat are diabetes, fatty liver, cancer, cardiovascular disease, infertility, depression, and sleep apnea to name a few.
Although the rhetoric of eat less and move more is unhelpful for most, it doesn’t discount the fact that maintaining an unhealthy body composition more than doubles your lifetime risk of death. It would be negligent for a medical professional to just ignore that. Now, of course the delivery of these messages should be done with sensitivity to the individual suffering—but to outright expect our medical professionals to lie to us to spare feels is highly irrational.
Back to BMI; scientific consensus has recently came under ideological attack of whatever the identity political movement has the spotlight of the week. Now science is being thrown under the bus to spare feelings at the cost of lives.
The entire premise of this absurd position is that the BMI was originally developed based on European populations and doesn’t have the same level of sensitivity for people of color, meaning that it’s less able to correctly identify individuals who are overweight or obese. Corrective tests have suggested that people of color may need different cut-off marks (e.g., higher for blacks and lower for Asians) to maintain its population-predictive capabilities due to simple ethnic differences in things like lean mass. It is dangerous to adhere to this principle of the BMI being nothing but a racist tool—and will cost lives of minorities and black populations. Obesity is a risk factor to all Americans regardless of their race.
But many take information and say the BMI is racist as a result. It’s absurd and devalues what racism means.
This is a tool limitation that simply requires some simple modification, not a prejudice that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another. All medical metrics need to evaluated on a case by case basis and this is no different. It is those who want to see racial and sexist bias in everything that will find it. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.
The BMI isn’t racist nor useless; it does have limitations though. There isn’t any logical argument supporting the BMI as racist.