Thin people good (healthy). Fat people bad (could die).
That's the pseudo-science behind the body-mass index (BMI) and the many modern-day Commandments it has spawned.
The latest twist: No university degrees for fatties.
Some two dozen Lincoln University seniors may not receive their degrees this spring, thanks to a graduation requirement stipulating that students who enter college with a BMI over 30 must either prove to the school that they've lost weight, or take a one-semester class called "Fitness for Life." ... James DeBoy, chairman of the health, physical education, and recreation department, doesn't see a problem with the requirement. "We test for written, oral communication skills, and I don't see this as any different," he says. "We want our students to have a sound mind, but also a sound body."
As a side note, that would rule out Stephen Hawking, then.
The notion that thin is healthy, and fat leads to disease and death, is bizarrely limited. It ignores landmark research that shows that people who are moderately overweight enjoy better health than people who have the "right" weight as dictated by the BMI. In a major study by the Mayo Clinic, published in the Lancet a few years ago, overweight patients had better survival rates and fewer hart problems than those with a 'desirable' BMI. By the same token, subjects with a lower-than-ideal BMI had an elevated risk of heart disease.
We all know or have met people who are lean, and yet don't exactly look like the picture of health. They might include chronic drug (ab)users, bulimia and anorexia sufferers, AIDS and cancer patients, smokers, and so on.
The BMI is a flawed standard, and the procrustean zeal with which it is applied by medical professionals and busybody laypeople alike is disturbing. The BMI is a 175-year-old scheme dreamed up by an obscure Belgian physician in an era when phrenology was considered a solid science. If it has any usefulness at all, it should be used as a very rough, very broad guideline — not as a club to gleefully and smugly hit pear-shaped people over the head with.