As a measure, BMI became popular during the early 1950s and 60s
as obesity started to become a discernible issue in prosperous Western societies.
BMI provided a simple numeric measure of a person's "fatness" or "thinness",
allowing health professionals to discuss over- and under-weight problems more
objectively with their patients. However, BMI has become controversial because
many people, including physicians, have come to rely on its apparent numerical
authority for medical diagnosis, but that was never the BMI's purpose. It is meant
to be used as a simple means of classifying sedentary (physically inactive)
individuals with an average body composition. For these individuals, the current
value settings are as follows: a BMI of 18.5 to 25 may indicate optimal weight; a
BMI lower than 18.5 suggests the person is underweight while a number above 25 may
indicate the person is overweight; a BMI below 17.5 may indicate the person has
anorexia or a related disorder; a number above 30 suggests the person is obese
(over 40, morbidly obese).
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