Obesity Under Diagnosed When Using Body Mass Index

Obesity is under diagnosed when a person’s BMI is used, according to a new study.  This could mean that the rate of obesity may be higher than previously thought.

An analysis of more than 1,200 Americans showed a surprising trend: the rate of obesity may be higher than previously thought.

According to the study, when measuring a person’s body mass index (BMI) compared to the Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, there was a substantial under diagnosis of obesity.

Body mass index is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traditionally consider an adult with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 as overweight, while an adult with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

In contrast, the DEXA scan is a direct measure of the percentage of body fat. There has previously been no large-scale comparison made between BMI and DEXA; however, a team of researchers from the PATH Foundation in New York studied the medical records of 1,234 patients from 2003 to 2009 to determine both the BMI and percentage of body fat using DEXA.

The patients were then either classified as obese or non-obese depending on if whether they had a BMI of 30 or higher, or a DEXA of 25 or more in males and 30 or more in females.

Dr. Eric Braverman, a lead author in the study, was surprised to find that based on these findings, not only is obesity under diagnosed, but the obesity epidemic could be much more substantial than previously believed. By extrapolating the data on a global scale, he noted, it is very likely that obesity is a much bigger epidemic than the 300 million people acknowledged by the World Health Organization.

A full analysis of the findings will be released on April 23, 2010 at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) 19th Annual Meeting & Clinical Congress in Boston.

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