Validity of BMI as a measure of obesity in Australian white Caucasian and Australian Sri Lankan children

V P Wickramasinghe, G J Cleghorn, K A Edmiston, A J Murphy, R A Abbott, P S W Davies
Annals of Human Biology 2005, 32 (1): 60-71

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.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"