Researchers have developed a new way to measure obesity, without having people step on the scale.
The new measure, called the Body Adiposity Index, or BAI, relies on height and hip measurements, and it is meant to offer a more flexible alternative to body mass index, or BMI, US researchers said.
BMI has been used to measure body fat for the past 200 years, but it is not without flaws, Dr Richard Bergman of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and colleagues wrote in the online journal Obesity.
Limitations of BMI measurements include its inability to be generalised across different ethnic groups or used with athletes.
More generalised measurements
The team made the index, using data from a Mexican-American population study. They confirmed the scale's accuracy, using a dual-energy X-ray absorption (DEXA) scanner. Tests in a study of African Americans showed similar findings, suggesting BAI can be used across different racial groups.
BAI is a complex ratio of hip circumference to height that can be calculated by doctors or nurses with a computer or calculator. It estimates percentage adiposity directly.
The team says BAI still needs some fine tuning, and they still need to test it on whites and other ethnic groups, but they think it has promise as a new tool, especially in remote settings with limited access to reliable scales.
"After further validation, this measure can be proposed as a useful measure of fat percentage, which is very easy to obtain. However, it remains to be seen if the BAI is a more useful predictor of health outcome, in both males and females, than other indexes of body adiposity, including the BMI itself," the team writes.
(Reuters Health, March 2011)