October 11, 1985

Consensus panel addresses obesity question

JAMA. 1985;254(14):1878. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360140024005

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There was once a simple explanation for obesity— inappropriate eating of attractive foods. But that was before countless biochemical, animal, and epidemiologic studies branded obesity as a multifacted disease of diverse etiology.

To address decades of research findings, the National Institutes of Health recently called a Concensus Development Conference. A panel reviewed the literature and listened to 11/2 days of expert testimony before formulating the following question-and-answer list:

  • What is obesity?

    It is defined as 20% above desirable weight designated by the 1959 or 1983 Metropolitan Life Insurance Company tables. But the distribution may be as important as the amount of fat, as evidenced by the increased incidence of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease in persons with high waist/hip ratios.

  • Is there evidence that obesity affects health?

    Studies have determined that persons who ranked above the 85th percentile in terms of body mass index (ratio