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BMI inaccurate in predicting body fat
Wednesday, April 13, 2005 3:15 am Email this article
A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 is not an accurate definition of obesity for many non-Caucasian groups according to a recent study.
BMI errors in predicting percent body fat by up to 10%
Estimates of body fat using BMI were off by as much as 10 percent among the ethnicities tested.
BMI overestimated body fat in Blacks by 2%
BMI over-estimated body fat by 2 percent in American Blacks and 4 percent in Polynesians.
BMI underestimated body fat in other groups by up to 10%
However, BMI under-estimated body fat by 0-1 percent in Chinese, 6-8 percent in Thai’s, 7-9 percent in Indonesians and 10 percent in Ethiopians.
This difference, for example, would lower the threshold of obesity from a BMI of 30 to 27 for Thai’s, Indonesians and Ethiopians.
European Whites 4% more fat than American Whites with same BMI
Interestingly, European Whites had nearly 4 percent more body fat at a given BMI when compared to American Whites.
Depends on age and gender
The relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and body fat depends on age and gender.
Body fat increases with age and female gender
For a given BMI, body fat increases with age, and is higher in women than men.
This new study also shows that the relationship also depends on ethnicity.
Obesity defined as 25% fat in men, 35% fat in women
Obesity is defined as having 25 percent body fat in men and 35 percent in women corresponding to a BMI of 30 in young Caucasians.
Old studies found overweight does not necessarily mean overfat
However, studies going back as far as 1942 have found that being overweight does not necessarily correspond to an excess of body fat.
Data from 32 studies including 12,000 people
This study analyzed data from 32 studies involving of a total of 11,924 people.
Deurenberg P, Yap M, van Staveren WA. Body mass index and percent body fat: a meta analysis among different ethnic groups. International Journal of Obesity, 1998 Dec;22(12):1164-71.
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