Dec. 11 (UPI) -- After much debate, a new study says Body Mass Index is a helpful in assessing a person's overall health.
Professionals have gone back and forth over whether BMI is a good metric for health because it doesn't distinguish from muscle and fat weight. It simply uses a person's height and weight, without taking body fat into account to assess their overall health.
But a new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found a direct connection between high BMI and fat in driving up high blood pressure and cholesterol, along with inflammation in young people.
Specifically, researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK compared BMI data with other fat numbers from 2,840 young people between ages 10 and 18.
"BMI is often criticized. Our study asked how useful it really is for detecting the health effects of obesity by pitching it against more objective body scan measures," Joshua Bell, an epidemiologist at the University of Bristol and study lead author, said in the news release. "We found that trunk fat is the most damaging to health, but that simple BMI gives very similar answers to more detailed measures. This is good news since BMI is widely measured and costs virtually nothing."
The researchers measured what effect fat along the trunk, arms and legs had on 230 traits like cholesterol and blood pressure in the young participants. Then they measured BMI numbers in those same group.
They found that carrying high BMI still had a similar effect as trunk and leg fat on those traits.
The World Health Organization says global obesity has almost tripled since 1975. The organization also says more than 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.
"We now need to look at more detailed lean measures to see if other aspects protect against higher fat, and how this might differ between the sexes," Bell said. "This is more important than ever given stubbornly high rates of obesity worldwide."