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Body Mass Index as a measure of obesity

Body Mass Index as a measure of obesity

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This Q and A style briefing paper provides an overview of the use of body mass index (BMI) for the measurement of obesity.
BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in metres. It is one of the most commonly used ways of estimating whether a person is overweight and hence more likely to experience health problems than someone with a healthy weight. It is used to measure population prevalence of overweight and obesity. It is also a relatively easy, cheap and non-invasive method for establishing weight status. However, BMI is only a proxy for body fatness. Factors such as fitness, ethnic origin and puberty can alter the relation between BMI and body fatness and must be taken into consideration. Other measurements such as waist circumference and skin thickness can be collected to indicate a person’s weight status or body fatness. None of these is as widely used as BMI.
Published June 2009.
Tags: obesity overweight children adults evidence bmi public health thresholds measurement weight status
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