Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist-Hip ratio (WHR), two different methodologies to measure our body composition

Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist-Hip ratio (WHR), two different methodologies to measure our body composition

The weight indicated by the scale can be a guiding parameter regarding body health or our predisposition to certain diseases. To counter these types of limitations we can use other indexes as a more reliable source.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist-Hip ratio (WHR) are two different methodologies to measure our body composition in a quick and easy way. These are two modern ways that can offer us great information and help us prevent certain diseases.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Of the two parameters we are talking about today, without a doubt, BMI is the best known to all. It is a simple and quick calculation of our body composition that evaluates if our weight is consistent and adequate to our height.

Therefore, the only data that we should take into account to evaluate the amount of body fat we have is our weight, in kilograms, and our height or height in meters squared.



Today there are many calculators that facilitate the calculation of BMI and in which we just get a result, as is the case with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) which also provides us with a orientation table to know which particular band our BMI puts us in.

Values proposed by the WHO

According to values proposed by the WHO , based on the data resulting from the equation we should assess our body composition as follows:

  • Low weight = BMI less than 18.5.
  • Normal weight = BMI between 18.5-24.9.
  • Overweight = BMI between 25-29.9.
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or higher.

Weight height table

Waist-Hip ratio (ICC)

The other parameter that provides us with information on body composition, which is somewhat less well-known, is the Waist-Hip ratio (CHF), which in addition to indicating the personal tendency or predisposition to accumulate fat, affects the probability of suffering from heart disease, diabetes or blood pressure problems , among other conditions.

This measure, used to find out intra-abdominal fat levels , is used as a complementary tool to the calculation of BMI, since the latter results have certain limitations that do not distinguish whether being overweight can be caused by muscle hypertrophy or if it is derived from an increase of body fat itself.

Therefore, according to studies ( I II ), the WHR may be a more accurate indicator of obesity or risk of coronary heart disease.

The WHR is the ratio that you get by dividing the circumference of a person’s waist. Let’s see this equation and how it works :

Waist circumference

For the calculation, the height of the rib (usually around the navel) is taken by the maximum circumference of the hip, around the glutes

Values proposed by the WHO

The proposed standard values indicate the following values to consider:

  • ICC = 0.71-0.84 normal for women.
  • ICC = 0.78-0.94 normal for men.
  • Higher values: Android syndrome (apple body).
  • Lower values: Gynecoid syndrome (pear body).

ICC table

My personal example

As an example of a personal case , in several of my routine check-ups, when my doctor calculated my Body Mass Index, the result was a BMI = 25.9 . Looked at theoretically and using only the table of values proposed by the WHO, it would be clearly within the range of people with weight problems; and the specific medical diagnosis would be: an overweight person.

My weight was 79kg with 8% body fat
This is the limitation of BMI that we refer to when only body weight is assessed, without distinguishing between the amount of muscle mass we have or that of body fat.
In other words, there are no parameters such as the Body Fat Index (IGC).

Alternative body composition measurement parameter: ICA

We have talked about BMI and ICC as body composition methodologies, although the truth is that there are other alternatives that are becoming more widespread and more frequently used everyday and that according to studies also show us conclusions to assess cardiovascular risk and nutritional status, as is the case with the Waist-Height Index (ICA) or Waist-Size Index.

This is the value used for waist circumference and height , both measured in the same units. The higher the ICA values, the higher the risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. With an ICA greater than 0.5 , we face a significant risk.

Table of values

ICA table of values

  • According to a recent study , the ICA has been become the most notable and reliable tool to detect the risk of heart attack, myocardium or death , above BMI or ICC.
  • While others studies point out that the ICC methodology would be the most appropriate to predict the risk of ischemic infarction .

Limitations to consider

Both the BMI and the ICC or the ICA are simple and indicative calculations, and are a valid way to give us an idea about a possible overweight condition or risk of suffering from certain diseases, but should not be considered as an infallible method .

Different individuals, with different weights and percentages of fat, may fit into a healthy BMI or CHF although they may actually be at risk due to other types of determining factors such as genetics or environmental exposure .

Therefore, using these parameters can be of great help for guidance and progress, but without forgetting that this is certainly limited data and that whenever there is an external predisposition the best idea would be for you to consult a specialist for further advice.

These parameters are helpful tools, at body composition level, but always subject to certain limitations caused by external factors


    1. Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) | El estado físico: uso e interpretación de la antropometría |Serie de informes técnicos, 854. Ginebra (Suiza) | 1995
    2. ncbi | Accuracy of Body Mass Index to Diagnose Obesity In the US Adult Population | Int J Obes (Lond). Author manuscript | available in PMC 2010 May 27
    3. ncbi | USE OF BODY MASS INDEX FOR MONITORING GROWTH AND OBESITY | Richard S Taylor | Paediatr Child Health. 2010 May-Jun; 15(5): 258
    4. Endocrine Society |The Predictive Value of Different Measures of Obesity for Incident Cardiovascular Events and Mortality | Schneider, H J; Friedrich, N; Klotsche, J; Pieper, L; Nauck, M; John, U et al. | Jan 2010
    5. ncbi |Body Mass Index, the Most Widely Used But Also Widely Criticized Index: Would a Criterion Standard Measure of Total Body Fat Be a Better Predictor of Cardiovascular Disease Mortality? |Ortega FB, Sui X, Lavie CJ, Blair SN | 2016 Apr;91(4):443-55
    6. scielo |Razón cintura estatura como predictor de riesgo cardiometabólico en niños y adolescentes |Pilar Arnaiz, Mónica Acevedo, Carlos Díaz, Rodrigo Bancalari, Salesa Barja, Marlene Aglony, Gabriel Cavada4 y Hernán García |Rev Chil Cardiol 2010; 29: 281 – 288

Links to related articles:

BMI and WHR assessment

BMI - 100%

WHR - 100%

Alternative ICA parameter - 100%

Limitations - 100%


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About David Diaz Gil
David Diaz Gil
David Díaz Gil contributes with excellent articles in which he deposits the essence of his experience as well as scientific rigor.
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