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Zerodha CEO Nithin Kamath announces BMI health challenge for employees; here’s how it is calculated

"It is time to move beyond the BMI as a surrogate for determining body fat mass. Think of BMI like a puzzle piece, it's a part of your whole health picture," the health expert said

BMI healthAccording to Dr Anand, BMI is not the perfect test, as with most measures of health. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Zerodha co-founder and CEO Nithin Kamath announced a new health challenge for the company’s employees this World Health Day. As part of this initiative, anyone with BMI (body mass index) less than 25 will get half a month’s salary as a bonus, Kamath said.

He added that the average BMI of Zerodha’s team is 25.3. Posing a challenge to all the employees, he said that if it comes down below 24 by August, everyone will get another half a month’s salary as a bonus. “It’d be fun to compete with other companies,” he said.


He concluded by saying that he knows that BMI isn’t the best measure to track health and fitness, but is “the easiest way to get started”.

Netizens were quick to point out that Zerodha’s new challenge is “unhealthy” and “demeaning” and doesn’t promote overall well-being as BMI isn’t the accurate way to measure health.

What is BMI and how to calculate it?

BMI, formerly known as the Quetelet index, is a measure indicating nutritional status in adults through a value derived from the mass and height of a person. “A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 25; a person with a BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight and a person with a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A person is considered underweight if the BMI is less than 18.5,” Dr Ganga Anand (PT), child birth educator, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Daffodils by Artemis, Gurgaon said.

To calculate BMI, body mass is divided by the square of the body height and is expressed in units of kg/m². The final value is calculated from mass in kilograms and height in metres.

Is BMI an accurate measure of one’s health?

According to Dr Anand, BMI is not the perfect test, as with most measures of health. “Results can be thrown off by pregnancy or high muscle mass, and it may not be a good measure of health for children or the elderly,” she said.

She added that people with BMIs higher than 30 are at an increased risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other ailments. “However, several studies have also suggested that in some cases, a high BMI could actually protect a person from dying of heart failure, kidney failure and other chronic diseases,” the expert pointed out.

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Here’s why BMI is not an accurate predictor of health, according to Dr Anand.

BMI cannot accurately predict the health of different demographics, says an expert. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

*BMI doesn’t take into account fat percentage and where fat is distributed in the body. Belly fat (fat around the abdominal organs) increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, whereas peripheral fat (fat beneath the skin elsewhere in the body) may be more innocuous, studies suggest.

*It cannot accurately predict the health of different demographics and races because it was created with data from only white Europeans. Research shows that there are biological and genetic differences in the relationship between weight, muscle mass and disease risk among different groups of people. BMI does not account for that.

More accurate measures of health and fitness

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According to the expert, following measures of body fat may be more accurate than BMI.

Waist circumference

“It is the simplest and most common way to measure ‘abdominal obesity‘ – the extra fat found around the middle that is an important factor in health, even independent of BMI. She added that it is inexpensive, easy to measure and strongly correlated with body fat in adults.

“However, it may be difficult and less in individuals with a BMI of 35 or higher. Further, it lacks standardised measurement procedure and good comparison standards in children.”

Waist-to-hip ratio

It has a “good correlation with body fat as measured by the most accurate methods, is inexpensive and predicts the development of disease and death in adults”. However, it is prone to errors and can be more complex.

Blood pressure is another important factor that must be taken into account to determine one’s health. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Skinfold thickness, bioelectric impedance (BIA), underwater weighing (densitometry), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are some other ways to calculate body fat mass, according to the expert.

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Move beyond BMI

“It is time to move beyond the BMI as a surrogate for determining body fat mass. Think of BMI like a puzzle piece, it’s a part of your whole health picture,” she said.

Other valuable factors include

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*Blood pressure
*Blood sugar
*Cholesterol
*Heart Rate
*Inflammation
*Lean muscle mass versus fat mass
*Waist circumference

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First published on: 09-04-2022 at 13:25 IST
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