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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Are very athletic people with a high BMI (Body Mass Index) considered fat?

How can you say that Body Mass Index is "a good tool" when it doesn't apply to everyone? Lots of athletes and body builders have a BMI in the overweight range (according to your chart), but they have very low body fat. Are you saying these people are fat?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

ExercisingYou're correct that there are those who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is in the overweight range (or even obese), but they are actually healthy. This because they are very fit and their weight is more in muscle mass than fat mass. This is, unfortunately, the exception to the rule and most folks who have high BMI are overweight and at risk.

Keep in mind the BMI is a guide that we use on an individual basis. Waist to Hip Ratio is another good guide that, like the BMI, we use in assessment. The two are complementary but are only a guide to whether your weight is a problem or not. When I see patients I take the two of these together. For the majority of folks these are good measures — except in the case of those who are very athletic.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet