As we told you last week, the same deeply flawed government standard that classifies millions of Americans as fat also considers 97 percent of pro football players “overweight” or “obese” — including super-fit athletes like quarterback Donovan McNabb. Now, according to a new analysis, we’re told that half of professional basketball players are technically “overweight.” Informed that the Body Mass Index (BMI) — which measures only height and weight — lists him as obese, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal threw down this slam-dunk response: “I’ve read that same formula, but as an athlete, I’m classified as phenomenal. You can look it up.”
If you look it up, you’ll find that basketball’s LeBron James, baseball great Alex Rodriguez, and US swimmer Gary Hall Jr. are all officially “overweight.” Technically “obese” stars include the likes of NFL quarterback Steve McNair, baseball slugger Sammy Sosa, and Mike Tyson. It doesn’t take someone with the famed eye of Ted Williams to see this standard is flawed.
Of course, leading experts know the BMI is bogus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admits that the BMI misclassifies many people, noting: “Overweight may or may not be due to increases in body fat. It may also be due to an increase in lean muscle.” Even pharmaceutical industry-funded researcher George Bray admitted to the Associated Press: “No one has ever suggested it’s the only criterion to use.”
Unfortunately, the BMI is the only standard the government relies on, and it is the basis for false claims like 400,000 Americans die every year because of obesity. That’s a serious problem. Public debates about obesity in America — including the possibility of lawsuits against restaurants and food companies for making people fat — are shaped by this unsporting BMI classification.