Anti-obesity effort should not rely on body mass index measure

September 15, 2011
Dr. Dan Cooper

IN THE NEWS: An ABC News report about Michigan’s attempts to curb childhood obesity cited UC Irvine pediatrician Dr. Dan Cooper, who questioned whether the effort’s reliance on the body mass index as a measure of obesity is appropriate.

“BMI is a very poor tracking mechanism for a child, because it doesn’t look at body fat. It looks at height and weight,” said Cooper. “Take a high school football player who’s 6 feet 1, and mostly muscle and someone who is 6 feet 1 and 30 percent fat, and they will have the same BMI,” he says.

Cooper worries that discussing obesity in terms of BMI with parents and kids will be misleading, as tracking BMI does not reflect positive changes overweight kids can make in their activity level.

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