Are two-thirds of us really overweight or obese? Calculate your BMI and enter our survey

Are we really as fat as we are told? There are growing calls for the BMI, which dates back to the 18

Are we really as fat as we are told? There are growing calls for the BMI, which dates back to the 1860s, to be updated, which could radically affect the number of people classed as overweight or obese. Picture: CHRIS RADBURN/PA WIRE. - Credit: PA

There are growing calls for the body mass index (BMI), devised in the 1860s and used to determine obesity levels, to be updated or scrapped. Find out your BMI here and then answer our quick poll to help us build a more accurate picture. Also, if you classed as overweight or obese but you disagree, email us a photo and your comments.

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Two-thirds of people in our region and nationally are overweight or obese, according to BMI data. But are hundreds of people being misdiagnosed and wrongly branded as unhealthy?

The BMI is a formula which calculates your ‘healthy weight’ in relation to your height. It was devised in 1869 by Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quetelet. His formula is still used today: your weight in kilograms divided by your height in metres squared.

If you score over 25, you are overweight. If you score over 30, you are obese.

But a growing number of scientists and nutritionists believe the BMI needs to be overhauled or abandoned in order to build a more accurate picture of alleged ‘epidemic’ obesity levels.

Jake Allen, 26, from Trimley St Martin (right), who is the 11th Strongest Man in the World in the un

Jake Allen, 26, from Trimley St Martin (right), who is the 11th Strongest Man in the World in the under 90kg category, is overweight (26.5), according to the BMI calculator. He labelled this "ridiculous". - Credit: Archant

A major flaw of the BMI is that it does not differentiate between fat and muscle. It also does not account for body type, bone density, stage of growth and other factors, and is oversimplistic and now out of date, scientists claim.

Conversely, it has also been suggested the BMI may provide false hope to people at risk of future health problems who may have a normal BMI.

Jake Allen, from Trimley St Martin, who is the 11th Strongest Man in the World in the under 90kg category, is technically overweight, according to the BMI calculator. He scored 26.5, despite his quite obvious and enviable core of steel.

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“This is ridiculous,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s crazy. I would not class myself as overweight. I am not anywhere near it. I’ve always ignored the BMI reading. I just go on how I feel.

“It should definitely be changed. There must be some other method, with all the new technology we have. There are loads of people in different shapes and sizes who will be healthy or unhealthy. It is not a true reading.

“It is quite depressing for people to hear they are overweight or obese, when they might not be. They might feel insecure about themselves when they shouldn’t.”

BMI is seen as a vital tool in healthcare. Doctors use it to diagnose anorexia, while it is also used to calculate life assurance premiums and who qualifies for gastric surgery in the NHS.

A study by the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), published by the International Journal of Obesity last year, found that 54 million Americans have wrongly been labelled unhealthy by the BMI.

They found that around half of people classed as overweight under the BMI scale were actually healthy, as were one in four people considered obese.

Psychologist Professor Janet Tomiyama, the study’s lead author, said at the time: “Many people see obesity as a death sentence. But the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy.”

The analysis also found that over 30% of people with BMIs in the ‘normal’ range were actually unhealthy based on other health data, such as blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Jeffrey Hunger, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, added: “This should be the final nail in the coffin for BMI.”

So is cycling legend Jason Kenny, Team GB’s six-time Olympic gold medal winner and still in his peak, really overweight? He is, according to the BMI, with a score of 25.5. England rugby players (Billy Vunipola is ‘obese’ with 35.6), Premier League footballers (Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud – 25.2) and even Team GB rowing Olympic champions all need to lose weight, the BMI suggests.

Other researchers also believe the BMI loses accuracy among small tall people, who have the same proportions as average height people. Research has found humans have grown by 10cm on average since the BMI was devised nearly 150 years ago.

BMI categories (national average score is 27)

Below 18.5 – underweight

Between 18.5 and 24.9 – healthy weight

Between 25 and 29.9 – overweight

Between 30 and 39.9 – obese

Some scientists say the ideal BMI measure (the ‘new’ healthy weight) should be changed to 20.7 to 26.4. They say a new category of marginally overweight should also be created, from 26.5 to 27.8. This small shift could have a major effect on the number of people actually classed as overweight or obese in Suffolk and Essex, and nationally.

So calculate your BMI score using the calculator, and then quickly fill out our poll so we can record your results and apply it to the new suggested categories, so we can build perhaps a more accurate picture of obesity levels in our region.

We will report the results in the coming days.

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