Tag Archives: Investigative press

Body Mass Index (BMI): mine, yours, and Trump’s

The ‘investigative press’ is quite concerned about President Trump’s height.  If he is 6 foot 3 and 239 pounds, he is overweight but not obese, if he is 6 foot 2 he is obese.  All this is a matter of definition by a single number — the body mass index (BMI).

So let’s all calm down and find out what ours actually is.  There is a website which will do it for you. Here’s the link — https://bmicalculator.mes.fm/?gclid=CM66rIG2tc0CFYQ2gQodOdINEg — have at it. You can use pounds feet and inches as well as kilograms and meters.

The current definition of obese is a BMI over 30, overweight between 25 and 30, and normal weight under 25.

Who cares?  Well, you should if BMI’s correlate with mortality and they do.

A great paper 5 years ago by Katherine Flegal analyzed nearly 3 million people with 270, 000 deaths reported in a variety of studies — https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1555137.

The problem is that the lowest mortality didn’t occur in those with normal weight (BMI < 25) but was lowest in the overweight group — not by much (6%), and second lowest in the mildly obese (BMI 30 – 35), over 35 it was 20% higher.

Naturally this did not sit well people who'd staked their research careers on telling people to lose weight.  There is a truly hilarious article describing a meeting at Harvard discussing the paper.  Here's a link https://www.nature.com/news/the-big-fat-truth-1.13039.   It's worth reading in its entirety, particularly for a graph it contains.

One study by a Harvard guy removed 900,000 people from the study leading to the following great comment — “It's hard to argue with data,” says Robert Eckel, an endocrinologist at University of Colorado in Denver. “We're scientists. We pay attention to data, we don't try to un-explain them.”

The Nature paper contains a terrific graph from the following paper — Source: Childers, D.K. & Allison, D.B. Int. J. obesity 34, 1231–1238 (2010).

Look at it carefully.  Mortality vs. BMI is plotted in several curves one for people between 20 – 30, one for 30 – 40, etc. etc.  Under 50 the best BMI to have in terms of mortality is under 25, but over 50 it rises, so that at 70 the low point is around 27 (in the overweight range) and not far from Trump at 6' 3" (29.9) or even at 6' 2" (30.7).

In a way this data fits with the fact that for a long time Americans were getting fatter and fatter, yet living longer and longer.  For details see — https://luysii.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/something-is-wrong-with-the-model/.

Why should the best BMI for you to have rise after age 50?  I've not seen this explanation anywhere else.

The BMI is far from perfect, but to calculate it all you need are two simple measurements that anyone can make — height and weight. It doesn't rely on what people remember.  However the calculation is not a simple ratio of weight divided by height but weight divided by height squared.

People lose height as they age, so the BMI is quite sensitive to it (remember the denominator has height squared).  Well as a high school basketball player my height was 6′ 1”+, now (at age 75) its 6’0″ (God knows what it is several years later). So even with constant weight my BMI goes up.

Well it’s time to do the calculation to see what a fairly common shrinkage from 73.5 inches to 72 would to to the BMI (at a constant weight). Surprisingly it is not trivial — (72/73.5) * (72/73.5) = .9596. So the divisor is 4% less meaning the BMI is 4% more, which is almost exactly what the low point on the curve does with each passing decade after 50 ! ! ! This might even be an original observation, and it would explain a lot.

As long as I’m on the subject of the ‘investigative press’  here is how they glossed over Hillary’s fainting spell during the presidential campaign, calling it a stumble.  Remarkable discipline that they all used the same word.  So take their worries about Trump’s weight with a grain of salt.

“Like the Michigan poll I started out with, most of the latest campaign surveys were carried out during last weekend and earlier this week, when the news was dominated by Clinton’s stumble outside Ground Zero, which prompted the campaign to reveal that she had pneumonia.” John Cassiday New Yorker

“For Orient—and the many media organizations that have recently been circulating her work—Clinton’s stumble looked like proof that they were right.” Wired — https://www.wired.com/2016/09/rogue-doctors-spreading-right-wing-rumors-hillarys-health/?mbid=nl_92316_p7&CNDID=24850134

The Boston Globe had a similar echo of the meme that all Hillary did when leaving the 9/11 ceremony was stumble.

As Richard Pryor famously said when his wife caught him with another woman. He denies anything is going on, and asks his wife, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”

See for yourself — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StyKyAFOGLY



Where is the hard-hitting investigative press ?

Hugo Chavez is a very sick man, something noted in previous posts — summarized in this post of 26 February ’12


Since that time he’s had to fly back and forth to Cuba for radiation therapy after his second surgery.  More to the point, he had to cancel an appearance 9 days ago (probably because he wasn’t doing well) missing a chance to confront President Obama.  Then, nothing from him except a few twitter posts. As expected, rumors flourished, so today he called a Venezuelan TV station saying that he was still alive.

All duly reported by Reuters, the BBC, the Associated press, The Telegraph (U. K).

Do you notice anything strange about this?

We’ve seen all sorts of pictures of him being greeted by Raul Castro as he gets off the plane to Cuba (and gets back on), pictures of him with Fidel, and probably video clips of him in Cuba (I wouldn’t know as I watch almost no television).

Don’t you think that at least one of these organs of supposedly investigative journalism could have asked why there is no picture of him?  Could it be that he doesn’t look as well as he has in the past?

24 April ’12 (5:30 PM EST) –At some point this afternoon a video of Hugo purporting to be filmed yesterday in Cuba was released to Venezuelan TV.  Perhaps this post or something like it triggered the release.  We still don’t know what he has, other than it’s some form of cancer, and whether it has spread from its site of origin.   He says he’ll be back to Venezuela in 2 days.

30 April 12 — The press  is finally starting to look a bit more closely at the news being released. There still has been no discussion of why he arrived back in Venezuela in the middle of the night, when no one is around to see what he looks like.  However, in today’s Bloomberg article about his request to go back to Cuba for ‘more treatment’, it was noted that, according to him, his 5 radiation treatments have been completed, so presumably he’s going back for something else (any area of the body can take only so much radiation).  Since getting back to Venezuela on the 26th, he’s remained out of sight, just emitting twitters and (I think) phonecalls now and then.