BMI Might Not Be the Best Way to Measure Obesity

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A normal body mass index means a person is healthy, right? Wrong. A new study by the Mayo Clinic found that this isn't necessarily true. Physicians who use BMI to diagnose obesity may be missing 25 percent of kids, ages 4 to 18, who have excess body fat. That's a huge number.

Body mass index is a measurement of body fat that is based on height and weight. It's problematic because kids' bodies don't necessarily increase proportionally as they grow. If the BMI calculation under-diagnoses that many kids, it poses potential problems. Excess body fat can pose long-term health issues, including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

According to researchers, the BMI test still misses children who actually should be considered obese based on the percentage of fat on their bodies.  As explained by researcher Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., "Those (kids') parents may get a false sense of reassurance that they do not need to focus on a better weight for their children."

While calculating BMI is a good starting point, it's also important to look at a person's eating and exercise habits, the Wall Street Journal explains. Hopefully this study causes doctors to take extra caution and fully analyze kids' health.

Want your teens to see more stories about health and nutrition? Subscribe to Choices for your teen, and check out our past pieces on nutrition, including "10 Foods Every Teen Should Eat" and "Meet the Food Fighters."