Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 
Obesity Epidemic in the Military

Apparently 61% of US armed forces members are overweight.

No discussion of what the definition of overweight is!

No discussion of the variance in BMI as height increases.

No discussion of the increase in height as abundance of calories increases.

No discussion of games like Tag being banned in elementary schools.

oh well

Re: Obesity Epidemic in the Military

It sounds like the old Body Mass Index (BMI) concept is coming up again. My understanding of this thing was that it was originally invented in the 19th century by Adolphe Quintelet, but it was ignored in most Western countries in favour of weight versus height and frame size tables developed by various bodies like insurance companies. Then in the 1980s the World Health Organisation (WHO) revived the BMI idea and the medical profession have gone along with it. The problems with BMI are:

a) It doesn't really apply to anybody who is more muscular than average. There was a study suggesting the overweight threshold of 25 and obesity threshold of 30 should be increased to 28 and 33 for certain categories of sportsmen.

b) The basic assumption in BMI that weight is proportional to height squared is dubious. If a human body is idealised as a cylindrical volume and the radius is proportional to height, then weight should be proportional to height cubed. Some studies have shown that weight is proportional to height raised to a power between 2 and 3, e.g., the study on this link comes up with a power of 2.6:

c) The overweight threshold of 25 and obesity threshold of 30 tend to be applied in a politically correct, 'non-racist' manner. In the USA, the overweight threshold was taken as 27.8 up to 1998 but the US medical profession then decided to adopt the WHO 25 figure. For slender south east Asian body types, an overweight threshold of 25 is considered by some to be too generous and 23 is more advisable.

Re: Obesity Epidemic in the Military

I stopped believing in BMI when I calculated that the American football player, Emmitt Smith, was clinically obese when he was setting the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season.