Thursday, July 3, 2008

The BS with BMI measurements

There’s something about an automatic fitness judge that doesn’t sit right with me.

How can humans put together in a variety of shapes, sizes with varying amounts of bone and muscle density be classified by a standard measuring only total height and weight?

Most truckers probably have heard by now that FMCSA’s Medical Review Board recommended that all commercial truck drivers with a body mass index of 30 or greater be subjected to one or two night sleep studies – a process that costs thousands of dollars and would mandate billions in revenue for sleep study labs.

Aside from recycled research used to justify the recommendation, the Medical Review Board relied on a BMI standard that fails to consider many things.

A colleague recently let me borrow her Nintendo Wii game console, and an accompanying game called Wii Fit, which uses a balance board to weigh your weight, balance, fitness and general competence as a human.

OK, that last part may be a bit of a stretch, but you get the point.

I logged in to check my fitness, and after entering some height and age information, was put in my place by a cartoonish avatar.

“You’re overweight,” the high-pitched voice chirped out.

I’d feign surprise here, but the truth is I’ve been skeptical of the height/weight standard for some time. I’ve run my numbers on multiple online BMI calculators and haven’t yet made it down to a BMI of 25, even though I run 20 to 25 miles a week and have completed some distance races, including a marathon.

But maybe there’s a way to make this BMI thing work for the general public.

Jazz fans may be familiar with the tale of Bennie Moten, a Kansas City bandleader who died the day after he went carousing with his surgeon. Moten died the next morning during surgery after the still-staggering surgeon friend accidentally cut him and caused Moten to lose large amounts of blood.

Maybe one day the American Medical Association will endorse a new standard to benefit patients. They’ll hold surgeons, who we trust with scalpels and our bodies, to a BMI limit of 30.

That way, we’ll know they are less likely to have apnea, and probably have slept excellently the night before.

Therefore, they’re much less likely to sleepily nick an artery or leave a pair of scissors near your ribcage.

Because we’re all about safety, right?


  1. Charlie -

    As we all know, the basis of this whole issue is about the money. The drug testing has been a cash cow for the medical industry just like this will be. And because these guys are "just dumb truck drivers" they won't fight back when this added expense is added to their plate. One of these days the truckers will become organized enough to make an impact on rulings like this. Until then we can surely expect more of the same.

  2. I have a large BMI and use a CPAP because I snore at 90db.
    After getting the unit I don't seem to sleep as well.
    Maybe it is due to the alien like mask that I now have to wear each night. On a positive note my wife now sleeps real well. Also I don't seem to get as many colds.
    Getting checked for sleep apnea is important. Falling alseep at the wheel is no fun for anyone involved.

  3. I have been going 'round & 'round with this BMI BS with my family doc for years. At 5'10" and 235 lbs, he says my BMI is out of wack. I tell him that I have been lifting weights since I was 5 years old and I carry a large amount of muscle mass, which is not given any consideration when calculating BMI. The best way to determine an accurate BMI is to weigh the person in water, which is not always available.

  4. You got it right!

    The public fears what it does not understand. The public does not understand truckers or trucking. And sadly, "the public" appears to include our legislators.

    Perhaps an effictive campaign against this will be to propose a "all other professions" schedule to help the wise legislators along with the plan to help this apply to all other high-risk occupations, as you pointed out.

    Our rights are eroding. Next thing you know, we will be forced to wear a seatbelt, drive in a certain lane, drive a certain speed, stop for inspection without probable cause... oh, yeah, that's all already happened.

  5. Well said, Charlie. I have enjoyed your articles and found them informative. Stay on this. I fear the DOT will make this a reality and we should not be surprised when it happens.

  6. I've hunted everywhere, but, I can't seem to find a logical reason for why DOT hates truckers so.

    As far as rights go, 392.60 needs serious revision.

    We were pulled over in Indiana, on our way into Ohio. We had just pulled out of the "Chicken Coop" when suddenly we're pulled over simply for being a CMV.
    In the end, the only thing they found, was that my husband hadn't drawn a line on his log, and I was in the truck.

    There was no accusation of improper or unsafe driving. No speeding, nothing. BMI is one more opportunity to make drivers miserable. It wasn't so long ago, that a so called "Fat Tax" was suggested be imposed by the federal govt. Could this be where this is really heading? Grab your BMI and then tax accordingly? That is, after you keep him from earning a living while he lays around in forced sleeping labs.


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