Should We Stop Using BMI to Measure Obesity in Kids?

Do BMIs make you roll your eyes? Then you'll want to read about a new study that suggests switching to a different tool to measure kids' body fat.
Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Here's some news plenty of parents will be happy about: A new study in JAMA Pediatricsfinds that there's another, better way to screen for childhood obesity than using BMI, or body-mass index.

The new method is called TMI. Instead of using the BMI formula (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) of kids ages 8 to 17, this calculation is thought to be a more accurate indication of obesity or an unhealthy weight. That is because, as researchers write in their findings, "Body mass index is based on the finding that adult body weight is proportional to height squared. However, during adolescent development, weight is not proportional to height squared, thus undercutting the validity of BMI in adolescents."

The new measure, found by calculating mass divided by height cubed, or the so-called tri-ponderal mass index (TMI), "estimates body fat percentage more accurately than BMI," according to the researchers. They conclude, "Overall, while TMI was superior to BMI during adolescent development, the ramifications of recommending a bold change to clinical practice and to public health research have not escaped us."

They hope more research will confirm that using TMI more accurately measures a child's weight across ethnic groups.

So stay tuned to find out if BMI is going to be banned for kids in doctors' offices. If so, it could mean that a child who was previously misdiagnosed as being obese would no longer fall wrongly in such a category. And that's something we can all get behind.

What is your take?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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