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body mass index

Alternative Names 
body mass index, BMI, Quetelet's index

Body mass index (BMI) is a standard used to judge body fatness. It is determined by dividing an individual's weight (in kilograms) by an individual's height (in metres) squared.

BMI tables are replacing the standard height-weight tables. BMI, in combination with waist measurement, can be used to determine if an individual is at increased risk for developing a number of chronic diseases. Unlike height-weight tables, BMI takes into account body composition. Body composition is the ratio of lean tissue to fat tissue that makes up an individual's overall weight.

A BMI between 20 and 25 is desirable for most adults. Individuals with a BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight. In addition, those more than 30 may be at increased risk for other diseases if they have 2 or more risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or sleep apnoea. A BMI of more than 30 indicates obesity. A BMI of more than 40 may increase risk of early death. It is considered morbidly obese.

BMI calculator

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 30/11/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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