“There’s a lot of money to be made off of everybody believing we’re too fat,” says Lindo Bacon. In 1998, Bacon’s PhD advisor happened to be on the advisory committee overseeing the change. To Bacon, the research supported the idea that, if anything, the “normal” BMI range should have been raised, not lowered—and their advisor agreed. The committee, however, had been told that American BMIs needed to match those of world standards so that companies who sold products worldwide could use a standardized number.
Bacon went further down the rabbit hole: they called up the WHO, which sets worldwide BMI standards, and a representative from the WHO told Bacon they were advised by an organization called the International Obesity Task Force—a private organization whose top two donors at the time were the only pharmaceutical companies making weight loss pills. “Pharmaceutical companies have written the current BMI standards,” Bacon says. “They’re not based on health.”