The body mass index (BMI) and waistline measurement overestimate obesity in blacks, according to a new study. The results, which were presented at The Endocrine Society's 91st Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., suggest that conventional methods for estimating body fat may need to become race-specific.
"Compared to Caucasians, African-Americans of the same age, gender, waist circumference, weight and height may have lower total and abdominal fat mass," said principal investigator and study leader Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, professor of medicine and chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis. "These findings argue for a review of the existing cutoffs for healthy BMI and waist circumference among African-Americans."
The correlation between DEXA-measured total fat and the BMI was higher in whites than blacks, the authors reported. The same was true for the correlation between directly measured abdominal fat and waist size.
Therefore, body fat is likely to be lower in blacks than in whites of the same weight and height, Dagogo-Jack said. He said their data suggest that muscle mass may be higher in blacks, which would explain the dissociation between weight expressed as BMI and measured body fat.
"If our results are confirmed in a larger study population by other researchers, the obesity field will need to develop ethnic-specific cutoffs for what values represent overweight and obesity," he concluded. ###
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