Checking Obesity

Report recommends screening for all adults in United States

TUESDAY, Dec. 2, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- All adults should be screened for obesity and obese patients should be offered intensive counseling and behavioral interventions to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight, says a new report by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The report, which appears in the Dec. 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, says doctors should screen for obesity using the body mass index (BMI). This is a valid and reliable screening test, the task force report says.

People with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight and people with a BMI of more than 30 are considered obese.

The report also suggests doctors consider measuring patients for centrally located body weight, which is independently associated with cardiovascular disease.

Men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches and women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. But the report notes these measurements may be inaccurate for people with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35.

The report defined intensive counseling for obese people as two or more individual or group diet and exercise counseling sessions per month for at least three months. It says that counseling obese people to lose weight is more effective when it's combined with behavioral interventions that help them develop skills, motivation and support systems to achieve a healthier weight.

Primary-care doctors have an important role in diagnosing obesity and in either providing intensive counseling and behavioral intervention for obese patients or referring obese patients to receive such help, the report says.

It did not include any recommendations about obesity screening for children. That will be covered in a future report.

The prevalence of obesity among adults in the United States has increased from 13 percent to 27 percent over the past 40 years.

More information

Here's where you can find a BMI calculator.

SOURCE: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, news release, Dec. 1, 2003
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