BMI Limitations

Lately, there have been debates about whether there is a need to develop different levels of measurement in the BMI chart according to different ethnic groups. This is due to evidence that the associations between BMI, body fat percentage, and body fat distribution differ between populations, and therefore health risks may increase below the cutoff point of 25 kg/m2 that defines the current WHO overweight classification.

There have been some attempts to interpret BMI differently in Asian and Pacific populations, but no changes have been adopted.

A work group was formed by WHO experts and is conducting a new review and evaluation of available data on the relationship between waist circumference and health risk.

Below is a list of some of the limitations of BMI:

  1. From BMI it is not possible to differentiate the fat and lean components from body mass;
  2. From BMI, skinny and/or muscular people may have a body mass index value inadequate to their reality and be considered obese;
  3. Ethnic differences influence BMI. For example, Asian descendants may be considered more obese;
  4. For the elderly, BMI has a differentiated classification.

One of the alternatives to BMI is the Body Adiposity Index (BAI). Read more about BAI.

Source: World Health Organization (