Currently, if healthcare practitioners are trying to determine how overweight a patient is, they use the Body Mass Index, or BMI. Invented in the mid-1800s, the BMI is an international standard formula for establishing ideal body weight which involves dividing a person’s weight by the square of their height. The resulting number is then compared to those on a chart, which fall into the categories of Underweight, Normal, Overweight, Obese and Morbidly Obese. A group of international researchers, however, are proposing that the BMI be replaced with a more detailed system, the Body Volume Index, or BVI. Using a 3D white-light scanner, the BVI identifies where the fat is distributed on a patient’s body, and how that compares to what’s normal.

After ten years of development, the BVI was officially launched earlier this month.

The system was designed by Select Research in Birmingham, England. Over 2,000 test subjects were scanned at collaborating research institutes in the UK, Europe and the U.S., to establish norms for fat deposition in various parts of the body – these norms allowed for age, gender, body shape and body composition.

To use the BVI, an underwear-clad patient stands in a booth equipped with 16 sensors and 32 cameras, which are controlled by a computer. The scan itself takes just six seconds, and within two minutes over 200 linear data measurements of the patient’s body are saved to a secure server. These measurements can then be compared to the norms, possibly alerting doctors to the potential for heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.

“What BVI now offers the world is a brand new way of measuring the abdominal area which BMI simply cannot do,” said Select Research’s Richard Barnes, MD. “BMI was never meant to be used as an individual assessment for obesity and we believe that after nearly 200 years, each patient deserves to be measured in a way that takes their own body shape and lifestyle factors into account.”