Obesity (Weight Loss) (cont.)

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What about weight-for-height tables?

Measuring a person's body fat percentage can be difficult, so other methods are often relied upon to diagnose obesity. Two widely used methods are weight-for-height tables and body mass index (BMI). While both measurements have their limitations, they are reasonable indicators that someone may have a weight problem. The calculations are easy, and no special equipment is required.

Most people are familiar with weight-for-height tables. Although such tables have existed for a long time, in 1943, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company introduced their table based on policyholders' data to relate weight to disease and mortality. Doctors and nurses (and many others) have used these tables for decades to determine if someone is overweight. The tables usually have a range of acceptable weights for a person of a given height.

One small problem with using weight-for-height tables is that doctors disagree over which is the best table to use. Several versions are available. Many have different weight ranges, and some tables account for a person's frame size, age and sex, while other tables do not.

A significant limitation of all weight-for-height tables is that they do not distinguish between excess fat and muscle. A very muscular person may be classified as obese, according to the tables, when he or she in fact is not.

What is the body mass index (BMI)?

The body mass index (BMI) is a now the measurement of choice for many physicians and researchers studying obesity.

The BMI uses a mathematical formula that accounts for both a person's weight and height.

The BMI measurement, however, poses some of the same problems as the weight-for-height tables. Not everyone agrees on the cutoff points for "healthy" versus "unhealthy" BMI ranges. BMI also does not provide information on a person's percentage of body fat. However, like the weight-for-height table, BMI is a useful general guideline and is a good estimator of body fat for most adults 19 and 70 years of age. However, it may not be an accurate measurement of body fat for body builders, certain athletes, and pregnant women.

The BMI equals a person's weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (BMI = kg/m2). To calculate the BMI using pounds, divide the weight in pounds by the height in inches squared and multiply the result by 703.

It is important to understand what "healthy weight" means. Healthy weight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 19 and less than 25 among all people 20 years of age or over. Generally, obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30, which approximates 30 pounds of excess weight. Excess weight also places people at risk of developing serious health problems.

The World Health Organization uses a classification system using the BMI to define overweight and obesity.

  • A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is defined as a "pre-obese."
  • A BMI of 30 to 34.99 is defined as "obese class I."
  • A BMI of 35 to 39.99 is defined as "obese class II."
  • A BMI of or greater than 40.00 is defined as "obese class III."

The table below has already done the math and metric conversions. To use the table, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column. Move across the row to the given weight. The number at the top of the column is the BMI for that height and weight.

BMI
(kg/m2)
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 35 40
Height
(in.)
Weight (lb.)
58 91 96 100 105 110 115 119 124 129 134 138 143 167 191
59 94 99 104 109 114 119 124 128 133 138 143 148 173 198
60 97 102 107 112 118 123 128 133 138 143 148 153 179 204
61 100 106 111 116 122 127 132 137 143 148 153 158 185 211
62 104 109 115 120 126 131 136 142 147 153 158 164 191 218
63 107 113 118 124 130 135 141 146 152 158 163 169 197 225
64 110 116 122 128 134 140 145 151 157 163 169 174 204 232
65 114 120 126 132 138 144 150 156 162 168 174 180 210 240
66 118 124 130 136 142 148 155 161 167 173 179 186 216 247
67 121 127 134 140 146 153 159 166 172 178 185 191 223 255
68 125 131 138 144 151 158 164 171 177 184 190 197 230 262
69 128 135 142 149 155 162 169 176 182 189 196 203 236 270
70 132 139 146 153 160 167 174 181 188 195 202 207 243 278
71 136 143 150 157 165 172 179 186 193 200 208 215 250 286
72 140 147 154 162 169 177 184 191 199 206 213 221 258 294
73 144 151 159 166 174 182 189 197 204 212 219 227 265 302
74 148 155 163 171 179 186 194 202 210 218 225 233 272 311
75 152 160 168 176 184 192 200 208 216 224 232 240 279 319
76 156 164 172 180 189 197 205 213 221 230 238 246 287 328

Table Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health

Below is a table identifying the risk of associated disease according to BMI and waist size.

Disease Risk* Relative to Normal Weight and Waist Circumference
  BMI (kg/m2) Obesity Class Men 102cm (40 in) or less
Women 88cm (35 in) or less
Men > 102cm (40 in)
Women > 88cm (35 in)
Underweight < 18.5      
Normal weight 18.5 - 24.9      
Overweight 25.0 - 29.9   Increased High
Obesity 30.0 - 34.9 I High Very High
Obesity 35.0 - 39.9 II Very High Very High
Extreme Obesity 40.0 + III Extremely High Extremely High

* Disease risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and CVD.

+ Increased waist circumference can also be a marker for increased risk even in persons of normal weight.

Table Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health


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