Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Please tell me that the information in this article is reported incorrectly.  The Peoria Journal Star (4/24/06, page C1) published an article dealing with overweight children and a measurement now being used identified as body mass index (BMI).

The first sentence of the article declares “Childhood obesity is a huge (I wonder if huge was deliberately selected to describe the problem.) issue in these days of supersize meals and video games.”  Other quotes in the article concerning BMI include:

“A child’s BMI percentile is a way of showing how his or her measurements compare to kids who are the same gender and age.  For example, if a child has a BMI in the 60th percentile, 60 percent of kids in the same gender and age have a lower BMI.”

“BMI is not perfect.”

“A child can also have a high BMI because he or she has a large frame or a lot of muscle, not excess fat.  BY the same token, a person with a small frame may have a normal BMI but might have too much body fat.”

“Although BMI is not a direct or perfect measure of body fat, a child above the 95th percentile is considered overweight because 95 percent of the population has a BMI less than he or she does.  A child whose BMI is at the 50th percentile is close to the average of the population.  A child below the 5th percentile is considered underweight because 95% of the population has a higher BMI.”

Is this correct?  According to BMI only 5% of a particular population is overweight?  If the male, ten year old population has an average height of 5 feet and an average weight of 250 pounds, then the BMI for those individuals will be in the 50th percentile and that then becomes the average for that particular group and by the definition of BMI they can not be overweight?  What nonsense!

I would suggest three simple, low tech methods to determine if a child is overweight or not.  After taking the height and weight of the child, the doctor should look at the body of that child and decide if he or she is overweight.  Probably, this alone will be as accurate as or more accurate than trying to determine the same by BMI.

If the doctor is unsure after actually looking at the body of the child, place that child on a treadmill, pop the speed to about 7.5 and see how long the child can run at that speed.  If he is still uncertain, determine how much exercise the child has in relation to the amount of sedentary activities and determine the eating habits of the child.  If after doing these three things, the doctor still can not determine if the child is overweight; I would suggest that the doctor resign his position.  He is in the wrong profession.


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