BMI may be a poor measure of body fat

Body mass index - or BMI - is one of the most common measurements used by physicians to assess a patient's risk for developing type 2 diabetes. BMIs in the obese range have traditionally put an individual at significantly higher risk for developing the disease.

However, new research is casting doubts on the ability of the measurement to be used as an accurate tool for determining disease risk.

A team of UK researchers took a variety of body fat measurements of adolescents between the ages of 9 and 10. Participants were either white Europeans, blacks from the Caribbean, and Southeast Asians.

The findings, which were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, showed that Southeast Asian children had higher average body fat percentages than either of the other two groups. However, this was not reflected by BMI measurements.

"[These findings] suggest that BMI can be misleading when comparing body fat patterns in children from different ethnic groups - better measures are needed for making such comparisons," said Claire Nightingale, who led the investigation.

She added that improved measurements could help policy makers direct public awareness campaigns to communities where they are needed the most, thereby reducing the rate of type 2 diabetes.
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