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Cad Saude Publica. 2010 Aug;26(8):1519-27.

Sensitivity and specificity of the body mass index for the diagnosis of overweight/obesity in elderly.

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Departamento de Nutrição, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brasil.


The aim of this article was to verify the sensitivity and specificity of the body mass index (BMI) cut-off points proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Nutrition Screening Initiative (NSI) for the diagnosis of obesity in the elderly. A cross-sectional study was made with 180 healthy elderly subjects from Florianópolis, Santa Catarina State, Brazil. Body fat percentage (%BF) was determined using DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry). The BMI cut-off point of the NSI offers better sensitivity and specificity for men (73.7% and 72.5% respectively). For women, the lower the cut-off point the better the sensitivity, with a BMI of 25kg/m² (sensitivity of 76.3% and specificity of 100%) being the most accurate for diagnosing obesity in elderly women. The WHO cut-off point offered very low sensitivity (28.9%). The results of this investigation lead to the conclusion that the cut-off points proposed by the WHO and the ones adopted by the NSI and by Lipschitz are not good indicators of obesity for the elderly of either sex, since they offer low sensitivity.

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