The reliability of the body mass index (BMI) to measure health risks has been called into question b...
The reliability of the body mass index (BMI) to measure health risks has been called into question by researchers from the Mayo Clinic in the US.
Heart disease patients with a high BMI, which is currently used to measure obesity, were found to have a better chance of survival than heart disease patients with a low BMI reading, according to the research, published in medical journal The Lancet.
The findings cast doubt upon the association between body weight and mortality from heart disease, which is a key consideration when underwriting life and protection policies.
The research, which included data from 40 studies involving around 250,000 patients, has not ruled out obesity as a health threat, but questioned whether the BMI test is a reliable measure of obesity.
The study's abstract stated that the findings could only be explained by the lack of any discriminatory power in the BMI to differentiate between body fat and lean mass.
Researchers called for alternative methods to be used to differentiate between people who have excess body fat and those who have a high BMI due to more muscle mass.
Graham Spittles, managing director at Otter Risk Solutions, said many insurers are using BMI as a reliable measure. "The more information used, the better chance of getting an applicant on risk without being referred for medical evidence," he said.
However, Spittles said it was unlikely life offices would change their underwriting practices in light of the new findings. "This latest research on BMI could potentially cloud the issue, but research is at a very early stage for it to be taken into account by underwriters. I don't think it will impact the way underwriters are using BMI until further research has been done," he said.
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