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Government Urges Doctors to Use BMI to Screen for Obesity

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Lately, the government has been taking on the burgeoning issue of obesity in America. The BMI, or body mass index, is meant to help people know whether they are underweight, normal, overweight or obese but the government is taking doctors to task for failing to use the tool consistently to help their patients reach a healthy weight. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force renewed a call on Monday for doctors to screen for obesity at every checkup and to not just mention losing weight, but intervene with an intensive diet-and-exercise regimen.

Americans do seem to tend towards growing waistlines, considering that 2/3 of adults are obese and 17% of teens. One of the problems may be that doctors sometimes struggle with their own weight, making it difficult for them to discuss weight issues with patients and be taken seriously. Another problems is that doctors don't know how to tactfully address the issue of obesity and they are also wary of yo-yo diets that are so popular in the U.S. Nevertheless, the Task Force suggests that doctors meet with obese patients on a regular basis, including 12 to 26 meetings per year, help patients to set realistic weight loss goals and analyze the barriers to their weight loss including depression, inactivity, overeating or other problems, tailor exercise routines, and teach patients about recording their food intake in a diary and keeping track of activity on a pedometer.

Despite the usefulness of the BMI in calculating weight problems, critics also say that although it is easy to use, it isn't always accurate. For example, some athletes could be considered obese by their BMI when they are visibly not. The same is true for some 20 to 29 year olds, as one study found that BMI did not accurately measure body fat in this age group.