Your BMI may not be as useful as you think. What was once hailed as the end-all-be-all of health, BMI (body mass index) is slowly but surely becoming obsolete.
Instead, healthcare providers are turning to other tools, like a a body shape index (ABSI), to help them determine how healthy their patients are.
With just an equation, ABSI can assess certain aspects of your health, including your mortality. You can learn how to do this calculation and start taking control of your health.
Keep reading to learn more about ABSI, including what it is, what it can tell you about your health, how to calculate ABSI, and how to maintain a healthy one.
What is a body shape index (ABSI)?
Also referred to simply as body shape index (BSI), a body shape index (ABSI) is a calculation that assesses your height, BMI, and waist circumference. The result of the calculation can tell you about your risk for certain health issues, like heart disease.1 Your ABSI value can also be used to predict your mortality.2
ABSI is similar to BMI but quite different at the same time. Unlike BMI, ABSI uses your waist circumference, which some argue is a better predictor of health outcomes. And, when compared to BMI, ABSI does a better job at associating your body shape with clinical outcomes.2
Although BMI is used in the ABSI calculation, those who developed ABSI say it scarcely correlates with BMI. In short, your ABSI is independent of your BMI.3
Many people complain that BMI doesn’t take muscle mass or body shape into account. Using BMI, many professional athletes, arguably the fittest people in the world, are categorized as obese simply because they have more muscle than the average person. ABSI corrects this error on BMI’s part.
What does ABSI say about your health?
You can use ABSI to obtain a basic roadmap for your health.
Typically, a higher body shape index result means a broader, wider waist circumference compared to your height. Research has shown that carrying extra weight around your waist may lead to poorer health outcomes.4
One study found that a high ABSI could be a predictor of developing type 2 diabetes and/or coronary heart disease in healthy males.5
Other research has found ABSI to be a potential predictor of premature death. One study was able to correlate high ABSI values to two-and-a-half times greater risk of dying early when compared to low ABSI values.6
ABSI may also be a marker of stiff arteries, which could lead to heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes. A study from 2016 concluded that high ABSI was associated with aging, long-term diabetes, and poor insulin response.1 The study also went on to say that high ABSI was linked to visceral adiposity (hidden fat).
Despite these findings, it should be noted that a high ABSI alone could not and should not be used to diagnose heart disease or other health issues.
While this may all sound a little scary, knowing your ABSI could be just the push you need to make some positive changes for your health.
How to calculate ABSI
The ABSI calculation isn’t too complex, but you’ll want to use a calculator.
You can calculate your ABSI by dividing your waist circumference (WC) by your body mass index (BMI) to the two-thirds power times your height to the one-half power, or:
ABSI = WC / ((BMI^2/3)(Height^1/2))
Note: BMI can be calculated by dividing your weight by the square root of your height. To get your waist circumference, you’ll want to measure the widest part of your stomach when exhaling.
In research, further calculations are needed for standardization, which helps make ABSI values easier to understand.
This equation is based on waist circumference adjusted for height and weight.3 What the equation gives you is a numerical value for your body shape. And for reference, the closer your ABSI value gets to 1, the higher your risk of various health issues.4
If you’re looking for a quicker and easier way to find your BSI, you can input your height, weight, and waist circumference into the calculator below.
Tips for maintaining a healthy ABSI
Now that you know all about what ABSI is and why it may be important, you may be wondering how to achieve or maintain a healthy ABSI.
In short, maintaining a healthy weight will help you maintain a healthy body shape index. This is because ABSI is, essentially, a measure of your body shape, including the circumference of your waist, where many people tend to carry extra weight.
A healthy weight is individual to you. Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, and some bodies naturally carry more weight than others.
If your ABSI value reflects the need for weight loss, be sure to avoid drastic measures to do so. Fad and restrictive diets are never the answer to healthy, long-term weight loss and weight maintenance.
Instead, realistic and sustainable changes should be made, and only if necessary. You never have to completely avoid certain foods to achieve good health. All foods can fit into any diet (unless, of course, you’re allergic to a type of food).
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy ABSI without making yourself miserable:
- Add more variety to your diet. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats frequently.
- Instead of taking foods away, add more nutritious foods to your diet. For example, add an extra vegetable or two to your usual dinner. Or top your breakfast cereal with fruit.
- Find physical activity that you enjoy and actually want to do. Avoid forcing exercise that doesn’t feel good. Once you have an exercise routine you like, you’ll be more likely to do it regularly.
- Get plenty of sleep. Poor sleep patterns have been linked to struggles with weight loss and weight maintenance.7 Your body needs plenty of rest to maintain a healthy ABSI.
- Work on reducing and eliminating any stress in your life. Extra stress can lead to extra eating. Studies have shown that some people are prone to weight gain when cortisol (stress hormone) levels are consistently elevated.8
A dietitian can help you on your journey to finding and maintaining a healthy ABSI. Making healthy, positive changes in your life can be challenging, which is why having someone else in your corner can go a long way.
About Brittany Lubeck
Brittany Lubeck is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition, and began her career as a clinical dietitian. Brittany has always enjoyed research and loves that she can help people learn more about nutrition through her writing.
1. Bouchi, R., M. Asakawa, et al. “Indirect measure of visceral adiposity ‘A Body Shape Index’ (ABSI) is associated with arterial stiffness in patients with type 2 diabetes.” BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care 1, no. 4 (2016): e000188.
2. Bertoli, S., A. Leone, et al. “Association of Body Shape Index (ABSI) with cardio-metabolic risk factors: A cross-sectional study of 6081 Caucasian adults.” PLOS One 9, no.12 (2017): e0185013.
3. Krakauer, N. Y., J. C. Krakauer. “A New Body Shape Index Predicts Mortality Hazard Independently of Body Mass Index.” PLOS One 7, no. 7 (2012): e39504.
4. Christakoudi, S., K. K. Tsilidis, et al. “A Body Shape Index (ABSI) achieves better mortality risk stratification than alternative indices of abdominal obesity: results from a large European cohort.” Scientific Reports 10 (2020): 14541.
5. Malara, M., A. Keska, et al. “Body shape index versus body mass index as correlates of health risk in young healthy sedentary men.” Journal of Translational Medicine 13, no.75 (2015).
6. Grant, J. F., C. R. Chittleborough, et al. “The association between A Body Shape Index and mortality: Results from and Australian cohort.” PLOS One 12, no.7 (2017): e0181244.
7. Papatriantafyllou, E., D. Efthymiou, et al. “Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance.” Nutrients 8, no. 14 (2022): 1549.
8. van der Valk, E. S., M. Savas, E. F. C. van Rossum. “Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals?” Current Obesity Reports 2, no. 7 (2018): 193-203.