Although there are many ways to determine an individual’s weight status and its effect on overall mortality, no one measure has proven to be 100% accurate. Instead, most health care professionals use a combination of tools, like BMI and body fat percentage, to determine an individual’s weight status in an effort to better treat and prevent many of the conditions associated with overweight and obesity.
Recently, doctors have announced a new system they say can more accurately predict your mortality risk based on your body composition. Say hello to the Edmonton Obesity staging system!
Like BMI, the obesity staging system is designed to help health care professionals identify the level of risk an individual is at for further weight-related health conditions. What makes this predictor different is that it identifies a person’s risk by taking into account functional status and comorbid health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, that are already present.
One of the most widely used determinants of weight status is the Body Mass Index, or BMI, for short. Throughout the years, BMI status has allowed health professionals to quickly categorize individuals as either underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese. Which category an individual best fits into is determined by their height and weight. This category then helps gauge an individual’s risk for certain diseases. The higher the BMI, the higher the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers. Although BMI is one of the most reliable tools currently available to help individuals identify their risk, it isn’t a perfect tool.
In fact, no measurement is perfect – especially when it comes to assessing health risk. Although the Body Mass Index is a good indicator of total fat, it doesn’t measure fat directly. For some individuals, this causes their BMI to be incredibly misleading. For athletes in particular, BMI scores may classify them as being overweight even though they have very little body fat. Elderly individuals may additionally find that their BMI is underestimated because of the lack of muscle that they have.
Since BMI isn’t perfect, many other indices have been suggested as a possible replacement to the BMI standard. Skinfold measurements, waist-to-hip ratios, waist circumference measurements, underwater weighing, air displacement, and electrical impedance are a just a few of the other measurements used to determine body composition and weight status.
Although some of these may be more accurate than BMI, they all have their own sets of limitations. One thing the BMI has going for it is its ease of use, standardized results, affordability and applicability to most people. Doctors feel, however, the Edmonton Obesity staging system carries these same positive traits, but is more accurate in its predictions.
In a recent large population study, the Edmonton score of individuals with a BMI greater than 25 was able to independently predict an increased risk of mortality. Overall risk is determined on a five point scale, with an Edmonton score of zero indicating no apparent risk factors and a score of four and five indicating severe and potentially end-stage disabilities.
The Edmonton Obesity staging system may help health care professionals better identify individuals at risk for conditions associated with overweight and obesity status. Although it’s still not a perfect measurement, when used in conjunction with BMI or other anthropometric measures, assessments can become more individualized and allow for better preventative measures to be developed.
August 29th, 2011