Money Matters - Simplified

Neck circumference gauges childhood obesity better

New research has established that measurement of neck circumference is a more dependable method for assessing whether children are overweight or obese.

Body Mass Index (BMI) has hitherto been touted as a potent tool to screen obesity. However measuring the circumference of a child's neck may well come across as a better way to screen youngsters who are overweight and obese, results of a new study show.

As BMI, a ratio of person’s weight to height, does not clearly indicate the distribution of abdominal fat or belly fat, it fails to precisely gauge whether the person is overweight or obese, researchers aver.

"The body mass index doesn't tell you what is responsible for someone's weight. In some cases it could all come from muscle, but your BMI could still indicate that you are overweight," lead researcher Dr. Olubukola Nafiu, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said.

Details of the study
For the purpose of the study, Nafiu and his colleagues enrolled 1,102 children and teenagers aged between 6 and 18 years.

"One of the first steps toward controlling the childhood obesity epidemic is to make available monitoring tools that are low-cost, quick and easy to use and generally acceptable to both patients and health practitioners," aver the researchers.

Divided into following categories - 6 to 10 years of age, 11 to 18 years of age, male and female, the researchers measured weight, height, waist circumference and neck circumference for each participant.

The correlation of kids' neck circumference was then assessed with measurements of their heights, weights and waist circumferences.

Findings of the study
Measuring neck circumference was the most reliable tool to pick obesity in kids, researchers found.

For a 6-year-old boy, recording a neck circumference greater than 28.5 centimeters made him 3.6 times more likely to be overweight or obese, as against his peer with a smaller neck circumference.

Besides screening for obesity, neck measurements might also be helpful in picking up clues for sleep apnea.

Loopholes in BMI measurements
The location of fat within the body is another problem associated with reliance on the BMI.

"The BMI doesn't tell you where the fat in someone's body is collected," averred Nafiu.

Fresh research has indicated that depending on the area of accumulation, body fat leads to different degrees of health risks.

Fat near the abdominal area is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

The inherent limitations of BMI measurements like the hassles and awkwardness associated with removal of clothes should prompt doctors to start using other methods for obesity screening in children as well as adults.

"One of the first steps toward controlling the childhood obesity epidemic is to make available monitoring tools that are low-cost, quick and easy to use and generally acceptable to both patients and health practitioners," aver the researchers.

Findings of the study have been published in the August print issue of 'Pediatrics.'