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January 9, 2001
Contact: Mary Kay Sones

Obesity Experts Recommend Body Measurements To Predict Chronic Disease

As part of a nationwide effort to address obesity, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their counterparts in 10 countries are recommending the use of body measurements, such as body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC), to predict mortality and the development of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

This recommendation, published in a report in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is the result of a CDC-sponsored workshop on the use of adult anthropometry (body measurement) for public health and primary health care.

"The data presented by the panel of international experts showed that cut-off points for body mass index and waist circumference consistently identify the health risks of excess weight.," said Dr. Frank Vinicor, director of CDC’s diabetes program. "These are simple, inexpensive and reliable tools for primary care doctors to assess the state of their patients’ health," Vinicor said.

BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. WC adds more health risk information by pointing at body fat distribution around the abdominal area.

According to the report, researchers suspect that, even though BMI and WC are scientifically sound predictors of common adult chronic conditions, primary care physicians have not utilized the guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization to assess and treat overweight and obesity in adults. In fact, the report points out, there are no data on how doctors currently assess obesity in their patients.

Because a large proportion of the adult population sees a primary care provider annually, routine monitoring of BMI and WC may provide opportunities to incorporate prevention into clinical management. Changes in weight or other body measurements could signal a potential health hazard, such as type 2 diabetes, and would assist the primary care provider to target interventions that could reduce the risks.

A recent study by CDC found a 33 percent increase in diabetes in the United States and the increase was strongly correlated with nationwide increases in obesity.

In addition to diabetes, the report suggests that BMI and WC measurements may also be beneficial in predicting other related health conditions such as coronary heart disease, arthritis and respiratory problems.

Copies of the meeting report can be obtained by calling the press contact above. For more information on diabetes and nutrition and physical activity, visit the following Web sites: or

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

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This page last reviewed January 9, 2001

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