How do scientists determine the ideal weight (BMI)?

Take home message

HHS current recommendation for under age 65 is 19 -25, for 65 and over it is 25-27.

Background

1832  Adolph Quetelet gathered information regarding the average man.  One of his conclusions that the best calculation for body type was the weight to height ratio (kg/m squared). 

1972  Ancel Keys collected data from 7,400 men in 5 countries, then decided Adolph's formula was the most helpful. He named it the body mass index (BMI). 

1972 - 2016  Scientists review correlations between height, weight, BMI, gender, age, diseases, and overall mortality. As they gather information, they made adjustments to what is considered the ideal BMI range. (See graph below)

This is exactly how science works. Scientists look at statistical probability, draw conclusions, and develop theories.  Then research moves forward, gathering more evidence, making adjustments, and fine tuning the conclusions.

For more information see the HHS BMI and weight chart


Changes in BMI studies related to age
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Sources

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Diehr, P and others. "Weight, mortality, years of healthy life, and active life expectancy in older adults" Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.January 2008.

Flicker, Leon and others.
"Body Mass Index and Survival in Men and Women Aged 70 to 75", Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, January 27, 2010.

Heiat, Asefah and others. "An Evidence-Based Assessment of Federal Guidelines for Overweight and Obesity as They Apply to Elderly Persons"<." Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine, May 14, 2001.

Roberts, Susan B."Dietary Variety Predicts Low Body Mass Index and Inadequate Macronutrient and Micronutrients Intakes in Community-Dwelling Older Adults". Or PubMed version".The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, May 2005.

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_____, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Body Mass Index Table

Winter, Jane E and others."BMI and all-cause mortality in older adults: a meta-analysis"The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 22, 2014.