Body Volume Index (BVI): The New Measure of Obesity

Posted on October 13, 2010 in Health and Life

By Pradyut Hande:

In a radical new development that is sure to bring some cheer and succor to the obese, the paranoid “clan of global weight-watchers” and healthcare professionals alike; the most widely used measure of obesity the Body Mass Index (BMI) could soon be replaced by the Body Volume Index (BVI). The BVI was slated for an “official launch” as the new measure of obesity on Tuesday (October 12) at the Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, UK.

The BVI was designed and developed in 2000 as a computer based measurement of the human body with regards to obesity and as a potential substitute for the BMI, producing far superior and accurate results. The BVI has been developed by as enterprising Birmingham based research firm — Select Research that promulgated the BVI concept after conducting a path-breaking study in 1989 (especially at that time). The study and survey explored the possibility of potentially using scanners to measure the inside of the body rather than the outside for clothing. Now after years of onerous groundwork, research, trials and validation; the BVI is all set for “take off”.

For many years now, researchers and academicians have toiled away in their quest to overcome the limitations of the BMI system…to develop a far more comprehensive and reliable system/measure of obesity that takes cognizance of other obesity related factors to tide over those limitations that have often minimized the BMI’s efficacy. I shall attempt to address the merits of the BVI system over the traditional BMI.

The BMI vs. the BVI:

The BMI was invented in the 1830s by the Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet — one of his major contributions to the domains of social physics. It is a measure of an individual’s body weight i.e. the estimation of a healthy body weight based on his height and weight (assuming average body composition). Its primary advantage is its ease of calculation and measurement and hence, unsurprisingly it is the most widely adopted tool to diagnose weight related normalities/abnormalities the world over. However, it does have its limitations.

The most notable being that it does not actually measure the percentage of body fat and hence, fails to precisely pin-point the weight distribution across the body. Also as it is heavily dependent on height and weight variables, it makes simplistic and often grossly incorrect assumptions regarding the distribution of muscles and bone mass. Additionally, another limitation that hampers the BMI’s efficacy is the documented fact pertaining to the loss of height with the advent of age. This implies that the BMI in such cases increases despite the absence of a corresponding increase in weight — a major fallacy. (Note: The BMI is expressed as the ratio of an individual’s weight to the square of his height.). Hence, the BMI’s limitations reduce its usage as an individual health risk indicator.

On the other hand, the BVI is a computer reliant 3D measurement system that utilizes full body scanners to accurately calculate the BMI and determine the palpable difference between muscle, bone and fat. The computerized nature of the system tides over the BMI’s manual calculation and most importantly can precisely identify where excess weight is distributed throughout the body. It also takes into account an individual’s body shape. So in essence, the BVI can easily differentiate between two individuals possessing the same BMI but with varying body shapes/contours and weight distribution. Its technological supremacy over the BMI system and resultant benefits in accurately identifying regions of excess flab provide its users with more than adequate information with regards to their weight related issues; thus, potentially acting as a motivational tool of sorts.

In this day and age of hyperkinetic global technological breakthroughs, the BMI system was bound to be “upstaged” by a far more accurate and superior system. The BVI is the answer and is here to stay as the new measure of obesity… for now that is.

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and a business student with wide ranging interests and strives to address myriad issues of national and global consequence.

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