Underestimating obesity

Obesity Co-Morbidities

  • Cardiometabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stroke
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)

Current estimates of obesity prevalence in the U.S. are based on body mass index (BMI) and account for  20% obesity rate in the 50 states, with 12 states having rates of over 30%, according to the CDC.  However, recent research carried out by researchers at New York University School of Medicine and other institutions have indicated the imprecision of BMI is resulting in a high number of false negatives for obesity.  In the research studying a sampling of men and women and comparing BMI to an alternative method for determining obesity by employing specific biomarkers and duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), the BMI measurement concluded that 26% of the subjects were obese, while DXA concluded that 64% of the patients were obese.

Body mass index has previously been challenged as a measure of obesity due to its inability to effectively differentiate between body types regarding obesity. Whether the DXA ultimately becomes a more reliable standard measure for obesity remains to be seen, but what is clear is that any measure that results in higher counts of the obese will be met by healthcare (and the medical product industry) as justification for increased spending in the treatment of obesity. Further research, of course, will be necessary to evaluate the relationship between the increased sensitivity to detection of obesity and the identification of associated morbidity or, as is often the case with obesity, the co-morbidities of diabetes, heart disease and other expensive healthcare challenges.


For further information on obesity drugs and devices, see the 2011 MedMarket Diligence report #S835, "Products, Technologies and Markets Worldwide for the Clinical Management of Obesity, 2011-2019".