Council explores the truth behind BMI

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The Citizen revealed this week that new figures from Public Health England showed Milton Keynes is joint eighth in the top ten list of overweight areas in Britain, with THREE QUARTERS of adults living in the city overweight or obese, writes Ben Hemington.

So what is classed as overweight? The new figures revealed 72.5 per cent of Milton Keynes adults are too heavy, and these statistics are based on Body Mass Index guidelines.

Devised in the 1800s, Body Mass Index (BMI) has become the standard measurement tool used by doctors to gauge obesity in adults. It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres, and will tell you whether you are underweight, overweight, or an ideal weight for your height.

Adults with an average BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 are generally considered to have the ideal body weight for their height. Over 25 is considered overweight, and between 30-40 is classified as obese. Unfortunately the average BMI for a British men is 27 and for women is 26.9, making us the 26th fattest country in the world. The fattest is Kuwait, with America second.

BMI is widely recognised in health circles as being the most accurate indicator of obesity available to doctors, but the tool does have some limitations. For example, BMI does not apply to pregnant women. It also does not account for people with very athletic and muscular builds and many professional athletes would be overweight according to their BMI.

Obesity has become a global epidemic and figures published by the World Health Organisation show it has nearly doubled since 1980. Being overweight or obese increases a persons risk of developing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, or suffering a stroke. Researchers now see global weight gain as a bigger threat to mankind than population growth.

“It is really sad to hear the figures that came out this week,” explains Simon Williams, from city outdoor fitness training company fitMK. “A big part of the problem is that commercially driven food manufacturing companies often give out really inaccurate advice. Often the low fat, low sugar products are full of chemicals that are terrible for you. These companies set people up to fail”

“You need to eat food that is as natural as possible like root vegetables and meats. A diet needs to be made up of foods that are balanced. Too often nowadays people will avoid eating any fats or sugars and this is the wrong because they form part of a balanced diet.”

Here are THREE simple and easy tips that could help you reduce your BMI:

1. Get up and walk. Research shows that challenging yourself to walk 10,000 steps a day will significantly improve your health. You do not need to be especially fit, and walking is proven to build stamina, burn excess calories and give you a healthier heart;

2. Chair. Table. Plate. Every time you eat make sure these three items are present. Research shows that eating mindfully helps prevent people from over-snacking, binge eating and consume fewer calories;

3. Drink water. Studies have shown that people often confuse hunger with thirst. It is recommended that adults drink eight cups of water per day.

Milton Keynes council has today responded to the figures outlined by Public Health England, it said: “Milton Keynes Council is aware of the increasing levels of excess weight in our population, and plans have already been agreed to provide additional weight management services. This will lead to more than doubling of the public health investment in services to tackle this issue.

“Preventing excess weight has important benefits for individuals and the community as a whole, therefore Milton Keynes Council is working with partners including businesses, GPs, pharmacies and community groups to encourage and help people to eat and drink more healthily and be more active.”

The services currently available in Milton Keynes include:

A variety of local physical activity opportunities through Reactivate Milton Keynes

Weight management groups delivered by dieticians offering advice and support (Health and Lifestyle Opportunities, known as HALO )

12 week supported referral programmes (Active Milton Keynes Exercise Referral Scheme, known as AMKERS)

People in Milton Keynes who are at risk of health problems from excess weight are identified and referred to services through a GP-based Health Checks programme.

Calculate your own BMI:

There are a number of easy to use calculators for BMI that can be found online. The most reliable calculator is the one available on the NHS BMI web page because it uses the Department of Health’s official measurement system. It can be found at and is also available as an App on the iTunes App store system. There are also App’s available for calculating your steps per day available including the Moves app.