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June 7, 1976

Morbid Obesity

Author Affiliations

The Southern Illinois Clinic Ltd Mt Vernon, III

JAMA. 1976;235(23):2476. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260490012005

To the Editor.—  Two recent items referred to the issue of morbid obesity (234:1158; 1190, 1975). Of late, the morbid aspect of obesity seems to have preoccupied both writers and editors, to wit the number of published reports dealing with that issue.To the careful reader, the obvious wide range of criteria that are proposed, often only implied, is quite disturbing. Indeed, at times one believes that an obese patient becomes "morbidly obese" only and as soon as he offends the esthetic sensitivity of the observer.The obvious answer to this quandary is the adoption of a precise quantitative measurement of obesity, specifically, the "ponderal index" (Figure). The obvious advantage of this type of measurement is that patients are then referred to, and grouped by, their ponderal index rather than by their weight. Because there is good statistical evidence that as the ponderal index decreases, the corrected life expectancy also