With the obesity epidemic, and the effects of aging populations, human phenotypes have changed over two generations, possibly more dramatically than in other species previously. As obesity is an important and growing hazard for population health, we recommend a systematic evaluation of the optimal measure(s) for population-level excess body fat. Ideal measure( s) for monitoring body composition and obesity should be simple, as accurate and sensitive as possible, and provide good categorization of related health risks. Combinations of anthropometric markers or predictive equations may facilitate better use of anthropometric data than single measures to estimate body composition for populations. Here, we provide new evidence that increasing proportions of aging populations are at high health-risk according to waist circumference, but not body mass index (BMI), so continued use of BMI as the principal population-level measure substantially underestimates the health-burden from excess adiposity.