Mayo Study Finds Fault with Youth BMI Measurments

Posted at: 06/24/2014 6:51 PM
By: Hannah Tran

(ABC 6 News) -- Mayo Clinic experts are starting to retract some of their confidence in the reliability of a traditional way to measure excess body fat, especially for kids.

Whether by a physician or even through an internet site, obesity has been diagnosed and labeled upon people through the BMI formula, which stands for Body Mass Index.  Its purpose is to indicate any excess weight, depending on its relativity to one's height. It can be an accurate tool, but Mayo Clinic research shows that the measurement may be overlooking many children who could be considered as obese.

"The BMI works OK for doing height and weight, but it's really flawed with your muscle mass," said Art Trimble, a father who took his son, Andrew, out for some playtime at Soldier’s Field Park. As a wrestling instructor for Mayo High School, he believes that kids, in school and out, do not go outside often enough.

It's not only average fathers like Trimble that see shortcomings with the BMI formula. Mayo Clinic researchers found that it's missing around 25 percent of children who could be considered obese, despite a normal BMI.

"We found that the BMI is not a very good measure of obesity," said Dr. Lopez-Jimenez.

The BMI accurately identifies kids who are obese, but it has what experts call a “moderate sensitivity.” In other words, it can miss a kid who should be considered obese because of the actual percentage of fat in his or her body.

"In about a quarter of children who have extra fat, who would be considered obese under the fat content of the body, will not be called obese using the BMI," said Dr. Lopez-Jimenez.

Labeled or not, Nicholas Kleve, another father who took his two kids to Soldier’s Field Park, is sticking to common sense when it comes to his children.  

"I'm going to continue trying to take my kids outside every day,” said Kleve.

Mayo Clinic officials hope to raise awareness with these findings, not only for the public, but for health officials and policy makers as well.