Researchers Say BMI May Understate Obesity

The national obesity crises may be worse than we initially thought. Obesity experts are searching for better ways to measure the nation’s state of health after a new study finds that the body mass index (BMI) may be incorrectly classifying obese individuals as healthy.

The study, published in PLoS One, argues that analyzing body fact is a better tool for detecting obesity and predict health risks. To measure a participants fatness, researchers used “a costly diagnostic test called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DXA, and calculated subjects’ level of obesity based on fat-composition standards used by the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.”

The results suggested that the BMI is an inaccurate measure of fatness in men and women – often mistyping the obese as healthy. But the BMI has a long, established link with Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer that has been proven by decades of scientific research.

Still, the nation’s obesity experts are searching for better ways to measure the nation’s state of health. Despite high hopes, the DXA scans used in this study (and to evaluate bone density) are too expensive for widespread use. One alternative may be testing leptin levels, the amount of hormone released by the body’s fat deposits, which could someday be as cheap as $1 per screening.

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Source: LA Times “We may be fatter than we think, researchers report”

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