Recent study examines complexities of measuring obesity in people with disabilities

A recently published study examined obesity levels among people with disabilities by collecting the body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) from 1867 participants.  BMI is calculated from an individual’s weight and height, and WC measures the distance around an individual’s abdomen. Both measures are used to determine if a person is at risk of health problems associated with obesity such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

The study involved individuals with muscular dystrophy (MD), multiple sclerosis (MS), post-polio syndrome (PPS), and spinal cord injury (SCI). Results showed significant differences in BMI between the different disability groups. For example, people with PPS had higher BMI on average than people with MD, MS, and SCI.  Alternatively, results showed no significant differences in WC between disability groups.  Thus, there is a discrepancy in the way BMI and WC measures obesity levels in these disability groups, which could result in the misclassification of health risk.  Potential reasons for this discrepancy are discussed in the full article.  Further research is needed to better understand which measure is most appropriate for determining health risk among persons with disabilities.

Read the full abstract.