Obesity Scale Developed, Could Replace BMI

A new obesity scale developed by scientists could be better at measuring weight than the BMI, experts say.

Called Body Adiposity Index (BAI), the new measure relies on height and hip calculations, and offers a more flexible alternative to body mass index (BMI).

BMI is most commonly used to measure body fat. It is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. A person who is 5 feet 5 inches tall is classified as overweight at 150 pounds and obese at 180 pounds.

However, researcher Richard Bergman of the University of Southern California said BMI has several flaws in calculation.

For example, women and men with the same BMI might have very different levels of extra flab. BMI numbers cannot be generalized across different ethnic groups or used with athletes, who have extra lean body mass.

Bergman and his team of scientists created the BAI and published their findings in the journal Obesity.

BAI is a more complex ratio of hip circumference to height that can be calculated by doctors or nurses with a computer or calculator.

"After further validation, this measure can be proposed as a useful measure of percent fat, which is very easy to obtain. However, it remains to be seen if the BAI is a more useful predictor of health outcome, in both males and females, than other indexes of body adiposity, including the BMI itself," the team wrote in their study.

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Currently, one in three Americans suffer from obesity, according to the Obesity Society.

The prevalence of obesity in children has also increased with approximately 20 percent of children either overweight or obese. Obesity is also growing rapidly throughout the world, and rates have nearly doubled within a decade.

Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

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