More people could be called obese to reduce diabetes and other diseases

The threshold for detecting obesity should be lowered for middle-aged and older people, the researchers suggested. A study found that changes in body composition later in life could lead to people who have a higher level of body fat having a lower body mass index (BMI).

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies people with a BMI of 30 or more as obese. However, lowering that threshold could detect more people who are at risk of developing obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, the researchers said.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Rome Tor Vergata, the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and the Beirut Arab University in Lebanon, included 4,800 Italian adults between the ages of 40 and 80. The group was classified according to current WHO BMI standards.

About 1,087 were of normal weight, 1,826 were overweight with a BMI greater than 25, and 1,887 were obese with a BMI of 30 or greater. Using a body scanner, the researchers then recategorized people based on their age and body fat percentage.

They found that the proportion of people who were classified as obese in the group increased when body fat percentage was taken into account. About 38% of men and 40% of women in the study had a BMI of 30 or more according to WHO standards.

When body fat percentage was taken into account, it rose to 71% of men and 64% of women. Professor Marwan El Ghoch, from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, said: “This new BMI cut-off recognizes the physiological differences between middle-aged and older adults and younger populations.

“It is likely that changes in body composition across the lifespan, which appear to occur without significant change in body weight, lead to greater adiposity at lower BMI.”

The analysis suggested that the ideal BMI cut-off point for obesity in older adults was 27, with an accuracy rate of 90%. However, the researchers pointed out the limitations of the study, which was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice.