A New Body Weight Index

Here at Diabetes Flashpoints, we sometimes look at studies that involve body-mass index (BMI) — a measure of body weight that takes your height into account. BMI has been used for decades as a way to estimate whether a person’s weight is healthy, and it’s often one of several outcomes measured in studies of lifestyle programs for people with Type 2 diabetes.

BMI is a better indicator of a healthy or unhealthy body weight than weight alone — since your height does matter — but it’s still a rough measure. It doesn’t take your body composition into account, which means that someone in excellent shape could be counted as overweight for having too much muscle. And someone with a larger waistline, but smaller arms and legs, could have the same BMI as someone with a healthier body shape. As we’ve written about here at DiabetesSelfManagement.com, your waist size can help predict a range of health outcomes, including whether you develop Type 2 diabetes.

Advertisement

Last week, researchers unveiled an index that aims to be better than BMI at estimating how healthy your body weight is. Developed by Mayo Clinic in the United States and the Medical Research Council in Britain, the Body Volume Indicator (BVI) uses full-body imaging to compare the total volume of your body with the volume of your abdomen. As noted on the official BVI website, the new index is intended to estimate the amount of visceral fat you have — fat in your abdomen that surrounds your organs and has been found to be especially unhealthy.

Since 2008, researchers have been comparing MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of people — which can directly measure visceral fat — with front- and side-view full-body photos, which a computer uses to create a 3D image of your body. This 3D image directly correlates with the amount of visceral fat people carry on their body, which means you don’t need to get an MRI to get your BVI score — you just need a tablet and the new BVI Pro app, and someone to take your photos (ideally in snug clothing). The app sends your photos to a remote server, where a software program quickly computes your BVI score along with your waist-to-hip ratio, BMI, visceral fat volume, and other measurements. The app is intended primarily for medical and fitness professionals.

What do you think of the new BVI system — are you interested in getting measured? Has your health-care provider already measured your waist and discussed the importance of waist size with you? Have you tried to reduce your waist size, perhaps by following Amy Cambell’s advice in a 2014 blog post? Leave a comment below!