Baloney Mass Index
April 4, 2012 9:04 AM Subscribe
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A new study conducted by Dr. Eric Braverman, president of the nonprofit Path Foundation in New York City, and Dr. Nirav Shah, New York State’s Commissioner of Health suggests that the Body Mass Index significantly underestimates the rate of obesity in America
, especially for women. Based on BMI, about one-third of Americans are considered obese, but when other methods of measuring obesity are used, that number may be closer to 60%.
Dr. Braverman and Dr. Shah used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA
) scanning equipment to evaluate body composition. While BMI is a simple ratio of a person’s height and weight
, the DEXA scan, normally used to measure bone density, can distinguish between bone, fat and muscle mass.
Among the study participants, about half of women who were not classified as obese according to their BMI actually were obese when their body fat percentage was taken into account. Among the men, in contrast, about a quarter of obese men had been missed by BMI. Further, a quarter who were categorized as obese by BMI were not considered obese based on their body fat percentage. Overall, about 39% of participants who were classified as overweight by their BMI were actually obese, according to their percent body fat.
The full study, Measuring Adiposity in Patients: The Utility of Body Mass Index (BMI), Percent Body Fat, and Leptin
, is available on PLoS ONE, an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.