Historical Weigh-In: The Evolution of BMI Through the Ages


The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple number that comes from someone's height and weight. It's become a big deal in health and fitness. But it's changed a lot over time. In this post, we'll look at where BMI came from, how it changed, and how it became part of health talks today.

Quetelet's Index

BMI started with something called Quetelet's Index created by the Belgian Adolphe Quetelet back in the 1800s. Quetelet was trying to figure out a statistical way to relate height and weight.

Early Conceptions

Ancient civilizations also had basic ways to connect body size and health. So they were starting to get the idea of body composition.

Ancel Keys

The term Body Mass Index showed up in the 1970s. A researcher named Ancel Keys came up with it. He thought BMI could be useful to measure obesity in whole populations. This was a big step for BMI.


After the name change, BMI caught on quick with health groups around the world. It seemed like an easy way to measure fat and muscle mass. But some said it wasn't so great for judging individuals' health.


In the 1990s, the World Health Organization made BMI ranges to label if people were underweight, normal, overweight, or obese. This made BMI even more popular for doctors and insurance companies.


These days, BMI is everywhere in health. But it's not perfect. Some say it doesn't work as well for seniors, athletes, or different ethnic groups. Others think it focuses too much on weight instead of overall health. But BMI is still a simple tool to get a general idea of body composition. And it'll probably keep adapting as science learns more.


The body mass index or BMI started out as a simple formula some old dude named Quetelet came up with ages ago. He was trying to find an easy way to sort people by their weight. Fast forward to today, and BMI blew up thanks to technology. Health apps and online calculators made it super simple for anyone to figure out their BMI number.

Beyond BMI

But as BMI got more popular, people started hating on it. They said it couldn't tell the difference between muscle and fat or account for different body types. So experts began searching for new measurements like waist-to-height ratio and body fat percentage that give us a better overall view of someone's body makeup.


The story of BMI shows how our understanding of health keeps evolving over time. The original BMI formula was a good first try, but now we know more about bodies and can come up with tools that are more accurate and personalized. As we move forward, the history of BMI reminds us to keep pushing science ahead so we can quantify and improve people's health in new ways. It's an ongoing journey.