Assessing the validity of body mass index standards in early postmenopausal women

Robert M. Blew, Luis B. Sardinha, Laura A. Milliken, Pedro J. Teixeira, Scott B. Going, Dawna L. Ferreira, Margaret M. Harris, Linda B. Houtkooper, Timothy G. Lohman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the relationship between percentage of total body fat (%Fat) and body mass index (BMI) in early postmenopausal women and to evaluate the validity of the BMI standards for obesity established by the NIH. Research Methods and Procedures: Three hundred seventeen healthy, sedentary, postmenopausal women (ages, 40 to 66 years; BMI, 18 to 35 kg/m2; 3 to 10 years postmenopausal) participated in the study. Height, weight, BMI, and %Fat, as assessed by DXA, were measured. Receiver operating characteristic analysis was performed to evaluate the ability of BMI to discriminate obesity from non-obesity using 38%Fat as the criterion value. Results: A moderately high relationship was observed between BMI and %Fat (r = 0.81; y = 1.41x + 2.65) with a SE of estimate of 3.9%. Eighty-one percent of other studies examined fell within 1 SE of estimate as derived from our study. Receiver operating characteristic analysis showed that BMI is a good diagnostic test for obesity. The cutoff for BMI corresponding to the criterion value of 38%Fat that maximized the sum of the sensitivity and specificity was 24.9 kg/m2. The true-positive (sensitivity) and false-positive (1 - specificity) rates were 84.4% and 14.6%, respectively. The area under the curve estimate for BMI was 0.914. Discussion: There is a strong association between %Fat and BMI in postmenopausal women. Current NIH BMI-based classifications for obesity may be misleading based on currently proposed %Fat standards. BMI >25 kg/m2 rather than BMI >30 kg/m2 may be superior for diagnosing obesity in postmenopausal women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-808
Number of pages10
JournalObesity Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2002


  • Body mass index
  • Percentage of fat
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Receiver operating characteristic analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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