Author(s): Wickramasinghe VP, Cleghorn GJ, Edmiston KA, Murphy AJ, Abbott RA,
Abstract Share this page
Abstract BACKGROUND: Body mass index (BMI) is used to diagnose obesity. However, its ability to predict the percentage fat mass (\%FM) reliably is doubtful. Therefore validity of BMI as a diagnostic tool of obesity is questioned. AIM: This study is focused on determining the ability of BMI-based cut-off values in diagnosing obesity among Australian children of white Caucasian and Sri Lankan origin. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Height and weight was measured and BMI (W/H2) calculated. Total body water was determined by deuterium dilution technique and fat free mass and hence fat mass derived using age- and gender-specific constants. A \%FM of 30\% for girls and 20\% for boys was considered as the criterion cut-off level for obesity. BMI-based obesity cut-offs described by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF), CDC/NCHS centile charts and BMI-Z were validated against the criterion method. RESULTS: There were 96 white Caucasian and 42 Sri Lankan children. Of the white Caucasians, 19 (36\%) girls and 29 (66\%) boys, and of the Sri Lankans 7 (46\%) girls and 16 (63\%) boys, were obese based on \%FM. The FM and BMI were closely associated in both Caucasians (r=0.81, P<0.001) and Sri Lankans (r=0.92, P<0.001). Percentage FM and BMI also had a lower but significant association. Obesity cut-off values recommended by IOTF failed to detect a single case of obesity in either group. However, NCHS and BMI-Z cut-offs detected cases of obesity with low sensitivity. CONCLUSIONS: BMI is a poor indicator of percentage fat and the commonly used cut-off values were not sensitive enough to detect cases of childhood obesity in this study. In order to improve the diagnosis of obesity, either BMI cut-off values should be revised to increase the sensitivity or the possibility of using other indirect methods of estimating the \%FM should be explored.
This article was published in Ann Hum Biol
and referenced in Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy