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September 14, 1979

Indices of Obesity

Author Affiliations

University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson

JAMA. 1979;242(11):1140. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300110014013

To the Editor.—  We would like to comment in general on the use of indices of obesity—specifically about using the ponderal index (PI), as suggested by Flewellen and Bee (241:884, 1979). These investigators correctly state that the medical community has not adopted a commonly used method of quantifying obesity. However, we suggest that this is not due to any lack of evidence in the literature regarding relative usefulness of obesity indices. Such information is available.Billewicz et al1 offered the following criteria for a good index: (1) maximum correlation with adiposity, (2) minimum correlation with height, and (3) ease of computation. Using these criteria, Billewicz and colleagues compared PI, weight-to-height ratio (W/H), and body mass index (BMI). Each can be defined as follows: PI=height/[unk] weight; W/H= weight/height; and BMI=weight/ (height)2.The BMI correlated maximally with adiposity and minimally with height, whereas PI displayed least correlation with adiposity and