Body Mass and Body Mass Index estimation in medieval Switzerland

Medieval food - diet-

Body Mass and Body Mass Index estimation in medieval Switzerland


Bulletin de la Société Suisse d’Anthropologie, 17 (1–2): 35–44 (2011)


Body mass (BM) and furthermore body mass index (BMI) are well-known proxies used in medicine as a diagnostic tool to identify weight problems, health risks, and to assess biological standards of living within populations. The prediction of body mass (BM) from skeletal material is still challenging, although many studies have indicated that BM can be estimated from human skeletal remains and results have been acquired from early hominines. The present paper applies BM estimation formulae (Auerbach and Ruff 2004, Grine et al. 1995, McHenry 1992, Ruff et al. 1991) to skeletal populations from Switzerland (5th–15th c. AD; 291 males, 221 females) with the aim to reconstruct the BM and the BMI within a specific geographical and temporal setting. Correlation between the robusticity of the lower limbs in terms of external bone dimensions with BM and BMI were tested. Parameters such as sex and age were considered.

The method of Auerbach and Ruff (2004) offered the most reliable results. The mean body weight and the BMI for males was estimated 71.7 kg (s.d. 6.4) and 26.0 (s.d. 2.3), and for females 59.0 kg (s.d. 5.5) and 24.8 (s.d. 2.3) respectively. External bone dimension were highly correlated to body weight in males and females suggesting the strong correlation between biomechanical loading and long bone shape and size. The BMI was slightly increasing from adult to mature and slightly diminishing afterwards.

Click here to read this article from Bulletin de la Société Suisse d’Anthropologie

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