Measuring General Obesity

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The BMI provides the most useful and practical population-level indicator of overweight and obesity in adults. It is calculated by dividing body-weight in kilograms by height in metres squared (BMI = kg/m2). Both height and weight are routinely collected in clinical and population health surveys.

In the new graded classification system developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or above denotes obesity (Table 1.1). There is a high likelihood that individuals with a BMI at or above this level will have excessive body fat. However, the health risks associated with overweight and obesity appear to rise progressively

International Textbook of Obesity. Edited by Per Bjorntorp. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Table 1.1 Classification of overweight and obesity in adults according to BMI


BMI (kg/m2)



Normal range

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