This Medical Tool Continues to Be Inaccurate for Black Women

black woman speaking at a podium
Adé Hennis
May 23, 2023

Determining if someone is truly healthy or not can be difficult, especially because looks can be deceiving.

That’s why during the 1830s, a Belgian astronomer created the Body Mass Index (BMI) to help determine what a healthy person should look like. The only problem was that during that time, no Black people were included in the research to develop this index.

This has led to a history of Black people disproportionately being labeled overweight or obese because BMI compares your body fat compared to groups rather than focusing on your unique body structure.

Current BMI standards say that 44% of Black women are obese, but what it doesn’t take into consideration is the fact that Black people tend to have more subcutaneous fat, or fat that lies right below the surface of the skin, while white people typically have more visceral fat, which is the more unhealthy fat and builds up the outside of organs. So while Black women may look like they carry more weight, it’s often less damaging than you think.

We should seek to be healthy, but we shouldn’t base our health on an outdated scale, especially when it was never created to consider the Black body structure in the first place.

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