B.M.I. mismeasures Pacific people

The Body Mass Index (B.M.I) could be unhelpful for diagnosing cardiovascular risk in Pacific people, according to new research from the University of Otago.

While a useful gauge for New Zealand European bodies, it is not accurate enough for Pacific or Maori people, senior lecturer from the Department of Medicine in Dunedin Dr. Sean Coffey said.

Specifically, B.M.I. could not accurately indicate the thickness of fat around hearts, which in a special form called epicardial adipose tissue (E.A.T.), has been linked to an increase in heart attacks and heart rhythm issues.

The study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, reveals that using B.M.I. to indicate cardiovascular disease risk in Maori and Pacific people could actually be misleading.

“The use of B.M.I. as an indicator for cardiovascular disease risk among Māori and Pacific people may be misleading and contribute to the disparate outcomes among these populations,” Dr. Coffey said.

The B.M.I. measures weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres, and can be used to screen for weight levels that could lead to health problems.

Dr. Coffey and colleagues scanned ultrasounds of 205 New Zealanders to measure the level of fat around their hearts. Majority of the subjects were European New Zealanders while 41 were Maori or Pacific. 

European New Zealanders, or Pakeha, showed a correlation between their B.M.I. score and the level of EAT around their hearts, but Maori and Pacific people did not. 

It means the medical sector is going to need a more detailed indicator for the cardiovascular disease risks in these groups.

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