Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ethnicity key to accurate obesity measurements, researchers find

Date:
April 22, 2010
Source:
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Summary:
The current National Institutes of Health body mass index cutoff values for obesity are too high for many reproductive-age women in the US and should be adjusted to account for ethnic differences in body composition to produce proper diagnosis of obesity, according to new research.

The current National Institutes of Health body mass index cutoff values for obesity are too high for many reproductive-age women in the U.S. and should be adjusted to account for ethnic differences in body composition to produce proper diagnosis of obesity, according to new research from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Researchers found that the current BMI standards misclassify as "not obese" nearly half of reproductive-age women who are defined as obese by the World Health Organization, which uses actual body fat percentage to determine obesity. Of particular concern is the finding that more than half of white women and more than two-thirds of Hispanic women are obese by the WHO standard.

The study, which is the first to look at obesity classifications among ethnically diverse reproductive-age women, appears in the May issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study's findings provide evidence that a single BMI value is not appropriate for a diverse population and that racial- and ethnic-specific BMI cutoff values are needed. BMI standards are the most widely used tool for identifying overweight and obese individuals.

"It is especially important to accurately assess obesity in reproductive-age women, as they are more likely to be obese than similarly aged men," says lead author Dr. Mahbubur Rahman assistant professor in the UTMB department of obstetrics and gynecology and Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health. "These women are at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other obesity-related health conditions and may forgo or be overlooked for needed tests and treatments."

Over the past 20 years, the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in obesity, which the NIH defines as having a BMI greater than 30 kilograms per meter squared -- a measurement calculated by dividing an individual's body mass by the square of his or her height (kg/m2). Comparatively, the WHO defines obesity as greater than 25 percent body fat in men and greater than 35 percent in women. While this criterion is an accurate gauge, it is expensive and difficult to measure.

The study analyzed 555 women between 20 and 33 based on age, height, weight, BMI and body composition. The subjects included 189 white, 159 black and 207 Hispanic women. The researchers assessed subjects' obesity rates and BMI accuracy using three measurements: the current NIH BMI, the WHO guidelines and the researchers own ethnic-specific BMI cutoff values.

Using the current NIH BMI, 205 women were classified as obese. The obesity rate in black and Hispanic women -- 46.5 percent and 37.7 percent, respectively -- was significantly higher than in white women (28 percent).

However, the WHO guidelines classified 350 women as obese -- 63.1 percent of the total sample. The obesity rate was highest among Hispanic women at 69.1 percent. The rates were similar in white and black women, with 58.7 percent and 60.4 percent, respectively, classified as obese.

Finally, researchers applied their own ethnic-specific BMI cutoff values and found that 311 women were obese -52.9 percent of whites, 52.8 percent of blacks and 61.4 percent of Hispanics. These differing cutoff values (see chart) were determined through statistical procedures that identified BMI values corresponding to the WHO's definition of obesity. The values also take into account the fact that white and Hispanic women have approximately three percent higher body fat than black women for a given BMI.

Currently, NIH BMI obesity rate calculations show that black women have the highest obesity rate. However, these study findings suggest that Hispanic women have the highest rates -- based on body fat percentage -- and that obesity prevention programs should place special emphasis on Hispanic women.

"BMI is not 'one size fits all.' Inaccurate classification can decrease the impact of obesity prevention programs that will result in many women not receiving the help they need," says senior author Dr. Abbey Berenson, professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the UTMB Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health.

The researchers recommend that women whose BMI is between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2 receive additional counseling to reduce their body weight and avoid obesity related morbidity.

Berenson adds that lowering the current NIH cutoff values may result in labeling a few women as obese who are not, but that this would be far offset by the benefit of reaching millions of women in need of body weight and health interventions.

The researchers believe these findings are applicable to men and other age groups and anticipate follow-up studies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mahbubur Rahman, Abbey B. Berenson. Accuracy of Current Body Mass Index Obesity Classification for White, Black, and Hispanic Reproductive-Age Women. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2010; 115 (5): 982 DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181da9423

Cite This Page:

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "Ethnicity key to accurate obesity measurements, researchers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421172600.htm>.
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. (2010, April 22). Ethnicity key to accurate obesity measurements, researchers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421172600.htm
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "Ethnicity key to accurate obesity measurements, researchers find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421172600.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins