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How is obesity evaluated?

The definitions of obesity and morbid obesity were originally derived from the life-tables maintained by the Metropolitan Life Assurance Company in New York - the actuaries of the insurance business used this information to calculate life insurance premiums. As the BMI increases, the risks of obesity-related illness and death also increase. Once the limits of morbid obesity are crossed, the risks to health and life-expectancy increase sharply.

Obesity can be measured simply, using a weighing scale and measuring tape.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated as the ratio of weight (kilograms) divided by the square of height (meters). For example, a person who weights 140 kg and has a height of 1.75 meters has a BMI=140/1.75x1.75=45.7 kg/m2.

Indians are considered

  • overweight if BMI is greater than 23 kg/m2 and
  • obese if BMI is greater than 25 kg/m2.
  • Severe or morbid obesity is defined as BMI greater than 37.5 kg/m2.
  • But, if an obese person has an obesity-related illness, such as diabetes, then the obesity is considered severe or morbid if the BMI is 32.5 kg/m2 or more.
  • BMI more than 50 kg/m2 is called super-obesity and
  • BMI greater than 60 kg/m2 is super-super obesity.

In addition to weight, the distribution of body fat is important. Central obesity or obesity around the tummy or waist (also called "apple-shape" or male-pattern) is more harmful than obesity around the hips ("pear-shape" or female pattern). Waist circumference greater than 90 cm for men or greater that 80 cm for women is considered abnormal.