What BMI Defines Morbid Obesity?

The obesity epidemic in the United States continues to climb and the Covid-19 pandemic sure did not help, it contributed a 3% increase to the statistics from 2020. A survey conducted by The Harris Poll in February 2021 indicated that 61% of adults said they had gained weight since the onset of the pandemic and for 42% of these adults the average weight gain was 29 pounds. Yikes!

How does gaining weight relate to a person’s BMI level? What is a BMI level and why is it important? What is a good BMI? What BMI is morbid obesity? This article is going to answer all these BMI questions and even provide a way for you to discover your own BMI.


What Is A BMI Level And Why Is It Important?

The term BMI or body mass index is used to describe the results of a calculation that is done to determine if an individual is considered within a healthy weight range for their height, age, gender, etc.

The BMI calculation was introduced by a Belgian mathematician named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet in the late 1800s as he was helping the government to find a way to allocate resources. He came up with the BMI calculation as a simple and fast way to categorize individuals by their degree of obesity.

The NIH (National Institute of Health) began using BMI in the United States in 1995 to define obesity. Although its accuracy and relevancy are much debated, it remains the Worldwide standard to define levels of obesity.

BMI levels are important because they are used as a benchmark in the healthcare industry and may affect your treatment plan or your insurance coverage. Higher BMI levels (40+ or morbid obesity) are associated with an increased risk of disease.

How Is A BMI Level Calculated?

BMI levels are calculated using an equation that looks a bit different depending on the system used.

In the U.S. BMI is calculated by taking the body weight in lbs and dividing it by the square of the person’s height (in inches) and multiplying that result by 703. The equation looks like this:

BMI = Weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703 or the metric equation of
BMI = kg/m2 (kg is the person’s weight in kilograms and m2 is their height in meters squared)

The easiest way to find your BMI is to use our handy BMI calculator that does all the math for you!

What Does The BMI Chart Look Like?

The BMI chart is laid out in ranges. Once a person’s BMI number is calculated, they can find the range that contains their number to determine their category.

As you can see from the categories on the graphic, the morbid obesity BMI level begins at 40. When an individual falls into this range or higher, they are at greater risk for many health issues.

Body mass index (BMI) chart

Does A BMI Calculation Determine Body Fat or Health?

No, BMI is not an accurate measure of body fat, nor can it precisely determine a person’s “health” such as if they have high blood pressure or diabetes.

To give an example, think about a football player who is 6’2’ and 247 pounds. The BMI chart that is used by the World Health Organization as a standard of measurement, would consider him to be obese with a BMI of 31.7.

Football players are athletes with heavy muscle mass and not very much fat. An NFL player would not be considered obese or medically unhealthy.

Another example that demonstrates that BMI is not an accurate indicator of health is that individuals of Asian descent tend to develop illnesses and complications that are associated with obesity such as type 2 diabetes at lower BMI levels when compared to their caucasian counterparts.

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Why Do We Use The BMI Chart?

Why do we still use the BMI chart if it is not an accurate measurement of body fat percentage or the health of an individual? The short answer is that nothing better has been discovered.

We still use it because it requires no special tools or tests, you only need a tape measure and a scale. Also, it is a consistent and widely recognized measurement used by physicians, researchers, and insurance companies worldwide.

How Is BMI Used?

Patient BMI is often used as a screening method for medical procedures such as bariatric surgery or as a quick snapshot of their potential to be at risk for a variety of conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure;
  • Hypertension;
  • Type II diabetes;
  • Gallbladder Issues;
  • Cancer;
  • Severe sleep apnea;
  • Joint degeneration;
  • Infertility;
  • Premature death.

What Does It Mean When Someone Has A BMI Of Morbid Obesity?

A BMI of 40+ is classified as morbidly obese or class III obesity. This means that this individual has a higher risk of experiencing a serious illness (as listed above) or even dying earlier than they would if they were a healthy weight.

Is There A Cure For Morbid Obesity?

The best and only cure there is for morbid obesity and high BMI levels 35 and over, is to lose weight. Most individuals that have reached these higher BMI levels cannot lose weight without medical intervention.

Bariatric surgery or non-surgical weight-loss procedures can help patients lower their BMI levels and become healthier. Obtaining a healthy BMI level involves making lifelong choices to eat a healthy balanced diet and get a sufficient amount of exercise.

According to the CDC eating more calories than you use is the most common cause of obesity.

If your BMI is higher than what is considered healthy, let us help you correct this. At IBI Healthcare Institute, we care about the health of our patients and we would love to help you. Our team of knowledgeable compassionate professionals are ready to partner with you to help you reach your weight loss goals.

We offer a wide range of treatment options and we will find or create one that will work best for you. Contact us today to set up a consultation to learn more about weight loss options that can help you reach a healthy BMI.