Much has been written about the modern obesity epidemic, and historical BMIs are low compared to their modern counterparts. However, interpreting BMI variation is difficult because BMIs increase when weight increases or when stature decreases, and the two have different implications for human health. An alternative measure for net current biological conditions is body weight. After controlling for height, African-American and white weights decreased throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Farmers had greater average weights than workers in other occupations. Individuals from the South had taller statures, greater BMIs, and heavier weights than workers in other US regions, indicating that even though the South had higher 19th century disease rates, it had better net nutritional conditions.
anthropometrics nineteenth century US weights net nutrition health