Obesity epidemic in America found significantly worse than previously believed

April 2, 2012

The scope of the obesity epidemic in the United States has been greatly underestimated, according to a study published Apr. 2 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. Researchers found that the Body Mass Index (BMI) substantially under-diagnoses obesity when compared to the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan, a direct simultaneous measure of body fat, muscle mass, and bone density.

The disparity is particularly significant for women of advancing age, those with high blood leptin levels, and the normal weight obese.

The study found that as many as 39 percent of Americans who are classified as overweight based on BMI are actually obese as measured by DXA.

"The BMI is an insensitive measure of obesity, prone to under-diagnosis," said Eric Braverman, M.D., one of the authors of the study, "while direct fat measurements are superior because they show distribution of body fat."

Co-authors Braverman and Nirav Shah, M.D., M.P.H., recognize the convenience, safety, and low cost of the BMI, yet agree that it is an outdated mathematical equation that needs to evolve in order to correctly evaluate body fat.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 say, "yet the [current policies] may be flawed because they are based on the BMI."

The authors also found that levels of leptin, a hormone protein, are strongly correlated to body fat. They suggest that, in the absence of DXA, leptin levels may be used in conjunction with BMI to provide a more accurate measure of adiposity, and provide a leptin-adjusted BMI table to do so. They also note that the American Society of Bariatric Physicians use both BMI and DXA as criteria for interventions, which "may be a reasonable transition in ."

Explore further: High amounts of the hormone leptin are linked to decreased depression

Related Stories

High amounts of the hormone leptin are linked to decreased depression

June 6, 2011
Women who have higher levels of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin have fewer symptoms of depression, and this apparent inverse relationship is not related to body mass index (BMI), a new study finds. On Monday the results ...

Large waistlines can double the risk of death in kidney disease patients

July 12, 2011
For kidney disease patients, a large belt size can double the risk of dying.

Growth hormone increases bone formation in obese women

November 29, 2011
In a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), growth hormone replacement for six months was found to increase bone formation in abdominally obese women.

Overweight or obese kids at almost three times greater risk of high blood pressure

October 3, 2011
Overweight or obese children are at three times greater risk for high blood pressure than children of normal weight, according to researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine.

Obesity and large waist size linked to higher risk of death in African-American women

September 7, 2011
The risk of death increases with higher levels of overweight and obesity among African American women, according to a new study led by researchers from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University. In addition, a larger ...

Recommended for you

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

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.