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All information about obesity morbid obesity central obesity body mass index (BMI) causes of obesity health risks associated with obesity measurement of obesity obesity risk factors treatment of obesity obesity diet obesity exercise behavior therapy (physical activity) for obesity obesity medications obesity surgery childhood obesity

How obesity is measured?

A number of tools are available to measure obesity. Most are based on height and weight ratios, body size and shape, and percent body fat. All have benefits as well as limitations. (A doctor or other health professional can perform these tests most accurately.)

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Determines underweight (<18.5), normal weight (18.5-24.9), overweight (25.0-29.9), and obese (30.0 – 39.9) based on a person's height and weight. A result greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese, which can be a potentially deadly situation. BMI is the most popular method of determining weight status by health care professionals. The BMI is limited however, because it does not account for weight from muscle versus that from fat. Below is a BMI table showing height and weight and the associated BMI units for adults.

Waist Circumference

This measurement in combination with BMI has shown to be the best predictor of obesity and associated health risks. The size of a person's waist can help predict risk of certain diseases. A waist size greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women increases risk for most weight-related illnesses. Waist circumference is also used to determine a person's body shape. Body shape is based on how a person carries extra weight, and is used as an important predictor of health risk.

"Apple" versus "Pear" Shape

People who carry extra weight around their bellies are considered "apple" shaped. Those who carry it around their hips and buttocks are "pear" shaped. People with "apple' shapes are at risk for developing obesity-related health problems.

Waist- to- Hip Ratio (WHR)
WHR is the ratio of a person's waist circumference to their hip circumference, and is also used to determine risk for weight-related illnesses. This is calculated by dividing the person's waist measurement by their hip measurement. A WHR greater than 1.0 in men or greater than 0.8 in women is considered obese.

  • How to measure waist circumference-Using a tape measure, comfortably measure your waist right below the rib cage and above the belly button.
  • How to measure hip circumference- Using a tape measure, comfortably measure your hips around the largest portion of the buttocks.

The BMI, Apple vs. Pear, and WHR are useful tools for giving a general idea of how weight might affect your health. They do not tell you how weight is affecting your health imparticular. It is always a good idea talk with your doctor about your weight and weight management strategies when you have concerns or questions.

Percent Body Fat

Using a skin fold caliper to measure percent body fat is another way to determine obesity. Generally, men with more than 25% body fat and women with more than 30% are considered obese. The caliper takes measurements of fat lying just below the skin from several parts of the body (such as the triceps, or back of upper arm) to estimate percentage of body fat. Although this is not the most accurate way to determine obesity, it does provide you with a fairly good idea where you stand. Other methods for measuring body fat include using electronic impulses, water tank submersion, and special scales.

More information on obesity

What is obesity? - Obesity is a condition in which the natural energy reserve of a mammal. In humans, the current measurement of obesity is the body mass index (BMI).
What is morbid obesity? - Morbid obesity is clinically severe obesity or extreme obesity.
What is central obesity? - Central obesity (or 'apple-shaped' or 'masculine' obesity), is when the main deposits of body fat are localised around the abdomen and the upper body.
What is the body mass index (BMI)? - The body mass index (BMI) is a mathematical formula that uses your weight and height information to calculate your body mass.
What causes obesity? - Genetic, environmental, psychological, and other factors may all play a role in the development of obesity.
What're health risks associated with obesity? - Obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions including: insulin resistance, heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease and gallstones.
How obesity is measured? - A number of tools are available to measure obesity. Most are based on height and weight ratios, body size and shape, and percent body fat.
How common is obesity? - Most health professionals say that obesity is an epidemic. Obesity in the adult population has doubled since 1980.
What's the treatment of obesity? - The mainstay of treatment for obesity is an energy-limited diet and increased exercise.
What's the dietary therapy for treatment of obesity? - Dietary therapy involves instruction on how to adjust a diet to reduce the number of calories eaten. Reducing calories moderately is essential to achieve a slow but steady weight loss, which is also important for maintenance of weight loss.
What's the exercise therapy (physical activity) for obesity treatment? - The primary goal of this therapy is to move sedentary people into an active category (even if it is moderate levels of intensity) and to move moderate level individuals into more vigorous levels.
What's the behavior therapy (physical activity) for obesity treatment? - Behavior therapy involves changing diet and physical activity patterns and habits to new behaviors that promote weight loss.
What about the drug therapy for obesity treatment? - Drug therapy may be used for weight loss and weight maintenance. Patients should be regularly assessed to determine the effect and continuing safety of a drug.
What about obesity surgery? - Obesity surgery is used to modify the stomach and or intestines to reduce the amount of food that can be eaten.
What's childhood obesity? - Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005