FYI Friday – A New Measure of Health

Currently one of the most used measures of health is BMI. BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height. Based on this calculation, it classifies you into categories – underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese. If you are interested in determining your BMI there are many online calculators such as this one or you can use a chart:





However, BMI receives a lot of criticism because it fails to take into consideration body composition. So for example, many athletes with high muscle mass rank as overweight or obese when using BMI. Additionally, BMI does not distinguish the location of fat mass and there is research that shows that abdominal obesity (high fat mass around the abdomen) is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other adverse clinical outcomes.




Waist Circumference is another measure of health. It measures the amount of abdominal fat that you carry. The World Health Organization (WHO) in their 2008 report concluded that “measures of abdominal obesity are better than BMI as predictors of CVD (Cardiovascular disease) risk.” Therefore, measuring your waist circumference can be an important factor in knowing your health risks. Here is a quick video on how to correctly measure your own waist circumference.

And here is a table from the WHO that indicates your relative risk of complications based on your waist circumference:


Cut-off points

Risk of metabolic complications

Waist circumference

>94 cm (Men); >80 cm (Women)


Waist circumference

>102 cm (Men); >88 cm (Women)

Substantially increased

Now just like BMI, waist circumference has some limitations. It does not take into consideration body size (IE height/weight).

Recently, a new calculation called the “A Body Shape Index” or ABSI, uses a formula that combines height, weight and waist circumference. It’s hope is to give a calculation that understands overall body shape and therefore can predict relative risk of premature health related death. If you’re interested in reading the whole paper on the new calculation you can find it here. But I warn you, unless you are a statistician, it is incredibly confusing!



Want to know your ABSI and what it means? You can enter your information into the calculator here. Now, it’s going to give you a bunch of different numbers. It can be very confusing, but the number you are interested in is your ABSI relative risk, which is the second last number of the results.

Here’s how to interpret that number:

“A relative risk greater than 1 indicates greater than average death rate while numbers below 1 indicate a lower than average rate. For example, 1.2 indicates a 20 percent greater risk than average while 0.8 indicates a 20 percent lower risk”

When I plugged my numbers into the calculator I got 0.7 ABSI Relative Risk. Therefore, I have 30% lower risk than the average person of my age for death (health related).

Now, if your number is above 1, please don’t panic! But let it serve as a wake up call that your health could be in jeopardy. The good thing is that you are capable of changing that number through diet and exercise.

I hope I didn’t scare you off with too much math. I know, that’s a lot of thinking for a Friday! Have a great weekend everyone!


How do your numbers add up, are you surprised by the results? Do you wish I would talk less about math and show you yummy pictures of food?


2 thoughts on “FYI Friday – A New Measure of Health

  1. Thanks for posting! I’d actually been mulling over writing a piece on the limitations of BMI myself, so now if I do I can include something on this ABSI measure. I’ll be curious to see if it catches on though. Doesn’t appear that many published studies have used it yet. Unfortunately BMI may just be one of those things that sticks around despite the fact that there are several better measures out there – kind of like the Harris-Benedict equation for kcals :-)….

    • Yes there is definitely more studies that need to be done on ABSI but I think it’s really interesting. However considering how complicated it is I don’t see it replacing bmi for general population anytime soon.

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