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?