Researchers call for individualized criteria for diagnosing obesity

August 30, 2013
Researchers call for individualized criteria for diagnosing obesity

With soaring obesity rates in the U.S., the American Medical Association has classified obesity as a disease. This major shift in healthcare policy brings much needed medical attention to obese patients. However, this definition of obesity focuses on a single criterion of Body Mass Index (BMI), which includes a large group of persons with high BMI who are metabolically healthy and not at high risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity-associated cancers.

In a review article published online in Endocrinology, Gerald V. Denis, PhD, professor of pharmacology and medicine and James A. Hamilton, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), discusses the importance of eliminating healthy obese persons from unnecessary pharmaceutical treatments of the disease.

Previous studies have shown that the total volume of fat around the heart in obese persons is detrimental to some organ functions, but that total pericardial fat is not predicted by BMI. Thus, noninvasive imaging, such as (MRI), of pericardial fat could help to identify cardiovascular risks that are not clearly coupled with BMI. In addition, this could provide an opportunity to find blood biomarkers, which are the best indicators of relative metabolic status.

"These insights strongly suggest that BMI alone is insufficient to classify patients as obese and unhealthy; metabolism, , fat deposition and inflammatory status must be part of a comprehensive health evaluation," said Denis.

Certain non-obese individuals may also benefit from a noninvasive imaging approach, as well. Although not apparent physically, many lean people experience significant risks for these same diseases because of chronic low-level inflammation and fat deposition in or around . Where BMI alone would exclude this group from screenings, weighing more factors that contribute to pericardial fat could save lives.

"By using a more individualized approach, some obese persons can be relieved of the additional stigma of classification in a major disease category. In addition, unnecessary medical interventions and costs can be reduced," added Hamilton.

Explore further: Location of body fat can elevate heart disease, cancer risk

More information: media.npr.org/documents/2013/jun/ama-resolution-obesity.pdf

Related Stories

Location of body fat can elevate heart disease, cancer risk

July 10, 2013

Individuals with excessive abdominal fat have a greater risk of heart disease and cancer than individuals with a similar body mass index (BMI) who carry their fat in other areas of the body, according to a study published ...

Controversy surrounding 'fat letters' discussed

August 19, 2013

(HealthDay)—Despite the potential stigma surrounding "fat letters," school body mass index (BMI) measurement programs may be beneficial, according to a perspective piece published online Aug. 19 in Pediatrics.

Recommended for you

A metabolic master switch underlying human obesity

August 19, 2015

Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century. Affecting more than 500 million people worldwide, obesity costs at least $200 billion each year in the United States alone, and contributes to potentially ...

Scientists probe obesity's ties to breast cancer risk

August 20, 2015

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for breast cancer, but researchers haven't figured out what connects the two. A new study suggests the link may be due to a change in breast tissue structure, which might promote breast ...

Can a new drug brown the fat and trim the obese person?

May 28, 2015

New research has found that a variant of a drug used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension prompts weight loss in obese mice. Among mice fed a high-fat diet, those who did not get the medication became obese while medicated ...

Changing stem cell structure may help fight obesity

February 17, 2015

The research, conducted at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), found that a slight regulation in the length of primary cilia, small hair-like projections found on most cells, prevented the production of fat cells from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.