‘Baloney Mass Index’ can give false readings.

According to a new study, the obesity problem in the U.S is far worse than previously thought.  Researchers found 39 per cent of Americans currently classed as slightly overweight using the Body Mass Index calculator are actually obese.

The team from Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York said the measurement – that combines a person’s height and weight to diagnose obesity – often underestimated actual fat levels.

The authors calculated the BMI of more than 9,000 adults at a private clinic in New York. They then took Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scans, which measures body fat, muscle mass, and bone density simultaneously.

They found 65 per cent of patients were classed as obese by DXA but only 26 per cent of patients were obese according to BMI.

Study co-author Dr Eric Braverman, said: ‘The Body Mass Index is an insensitive measure of obesity, prone to under-diagnosis, while direct fat measurements are superior because they show distribution of body fat.’

He said that BMI was particularly inaccurate when assessing older women.

He added it should be called the ‘baloney mass index’ as it got the results wrong nearly half the time.

Reporting in the open access journal PLoS ONE researchers recognised that BMI was a convenient, low cost and safe way of calculating a person’s weight. It is the most widely used way to measure weight in the U.S and UK.

However, the authors said the outdated mathematical equation needed to evolve to correctly evaluate body fat.

‘These estimates are fundamental to U.S. policy addressing the epidemic of obesity and are central to designing interventions aimed at curbing its growth,’ the authors said, ‘yet the [current policies] may be flawed because they are based on the BMI.’

The authors said levels of leptin, a hormone protein, are strongly correlated to body fat.

They suggested that if DXA was deemed to expensive that leptin levels could be used alongside BMI to create a more accurate picture of obesity.

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Via Daily Mail