The body mass index (BMI) is one of the most common ways to determine whether an individual is at a healthy weight, underweight, overweight or obese. The system is easy to use and requires nothing more than a scale, measuring tape and a calculator to measure the amount of weight in relation to height. It’s widely used by personal trainers and medical professionals. However BMI has long been criticized for not accurately measuring body fat because looking at a number on a scale alone does not take into account vital information such as the amount of existing muscle (or lack thereof). As a result, professional athletes with little fat but lots of muscle would be deemed as overweight/obese.
Instead of BMI, how about measuring neck circumference instead? Another relatively easy formula, measuring neck circumference (at the widest part of the neck) can determine whether an individual is overweight or obese. Adults with a wider neck tend to suffer from health problems related to excess weight gain, such as apnea and diabetes. It is a better indicator of the amount of fat on the body, as well as its placement (something that BMI totally overlooks). A wider circumference often indicates more fat concentrated in the midsection, something that has been repeatedly linked to diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
While measuring the circumference of the neck can provide further insight, physicians still refer to BMI as a starting point. Researchers say that they’ll need further examination and assessment of the method to fully determine its accuracy as an effective tool.
The neck circumference method was published in Pediatrics, a medical journal, back in the summer. The study explored children 6 to 18 years old and found that the measurement could successfully determine those with a high BMI and fatty tissue.