This “Body Shape Index” tells more about your body than BMI

Our current body mass index, or BMI, has always been controversial. After all, it determines whether you’re “underweight,” “normal weight,” “overweight,” or “obese” based on your height and weight alone. Muscle weighs more than fat, so someone who has a lot of muscle might actually be “overweight” by BMI alone, even if he or she is in great shape.

It doesn’t take into account lifestyle factors or anything else, so the fact that it so ruthlessly designates one person as “obese” or “underweight” has always seemed wrong to me. That’s why this article in the April 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine caught my eye: “The Next BMI? The Number You Need to Know for Better Health.”

ABSI Combines BMI and Waist Circumference

Kelly Dinardo writes about ABSI, or A Body Shape Index, which considers waist circumference (WC) along with weight and height for insight into a person’s health and mortality risk. A bigger belly, as doctors have been telling us for years, has been linked with a higher risk of health issues.

The ABSI developers, Nir and Jesse Krakauer, performed a study in 2012 to test ABSI’s efficacy. They found that people with high ABSI did in fact tend to have a higher mortality rate — even when the values were low for BMI and WC.

In other words, testing WC or BMI alone might not offer as much accurate insight into a person’s health as the ABSI ratio, which analyzes WC, BMI, and height.

How to Calculate Your ABSI

However, the Kraukaeurs aren’t suggesting ABSI can replace BMI, per se. “ABSI expresses the excess risk from high WC in a convenient form that is complementary to BMI and to other known risk factors,” they write in the study paper.

To figure out your own ABSI, check out this calculator created by the Kraukaeurs: ABSI Calculator.