Is ABSI the New Body Mass Index?
Numbers are a significant part of trying to lose weight. Be it pounds, inches, calories, or minutes, we’re all counting our way to a healthier lifestyle. While many of us have a goal weight, others are focused on a goal BMI. That is to say, we want to be healthy according to the standard measurement that screens for obesity, called Body Mass Index (BMI). A normal BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9. A comparison of height and weight, BMI is meant to determine a person’s health risks for chronic disease such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Then there’s waist circumference. The National Institutes of Health suggests a waist circumference higher than 35 inches for women and 40 for men is associated with a higher risk of chronic disease. But neither of these directly measures a person’s total body fat, or accounts for an adult’s age or body composition, leaving many, including pregnant women, athletes, body builders, and the elderly, categorized incorrectly. Enter A Body Shape Index (ABSI), a newly proposed measurement that combines BMI and waist circumference.
What is ABSI?
The new obesity measurement tool was developed by researchers at The City College of New York. Using data from over 14,000 non-pregnant adults, they found mortality rates were best predicted by ABSI, while BMI was less accurate. To get your ABSI, you’ll need both your BMI and waist circumference (WC) equation is:
To determine if your health risk is above average, go to the ABSI calculator here. The results compare the relative risk of your BMI along with the risk calculated from the ABSI measurement. It's a good way to see how an elevated waist circumference is affecting your health.
Waist-to-Height Ratio vs. Waist-to-Hip Ratio
Aside from waist circumference, there are two other measures of abdominal obesity, one of which is waist-to-height ratio. A new study in Obesity Reviews says waist-to-height ratio is a better indicator of overall health than BMI and waist circumference alone. Waist-to-height ratio is measured by dividing your waist circumference in inches by your height in inches. A 5’9” women with a waist of 37 inches has a waist-to-height ratio of .53. An “elevated” waist-to-height ratio is greater than 0.5. If you're 5'4, a healthy waist-to-height ratio is a 31-inch waist. The other measurement of abdominal obesity is waist-to-hip ratio, by dividing your waist by your hip circumference in inches. Anything above 0.8 for women and 1.0 for men signals an elevated health risk for developing heart disease. Because neither of these measurements factor in the weight of the individual, they are less useful than ABSI.
The Bottom Line
Because body fat is at the heart of determining the health risks of obesity, indirect measurements like BMI, waist-to-height ratio, and waist-to-hip ratio can only tell half the story. While ABSI helps create a more complete picture of fat distribution and how it may contribute to overall health risks, even it isn't a perfect determinant of who will develop heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension. So try not to put too much stock in meeting a certain number. Because weight loss as small as 5% in obese individuals can create positive health outcomes, the ultimate goal is to take baby steps toward a healthier you. After all, like life, maintaining a healthy weight is a journey, not a destination.
Aside from weight, what measurement tool do you think is more important? ABSI, BMI, Waist Circumference, Waist-to-Hip Ratio, or Waist-to-Height Ratio