Standardizing Ideals

Body mass index calculations recommended by experts for eating disorder treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many shudder at the thought of gathering body measurements, especially weight. Yet researchers have found that BMI collections may provide the best foundation to calculate progress in anorexia and bulimia.

In order to determine the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of an eating disorder, an expected body weight for age, height, and sex is necessary, yet currently unavailable.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers investigate three methodologies to determine that body mass index (BMI) does the job best.

"Find out your expected BMI and set goals to achieve it."

Daniel Le Grange, Ph.D., professor and director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of Chicago, authored the study.

Dr. Le Grange explains that he and his team “set out to do something that is relatively straightforward that hasn't been done before, and that is look at some of the most frequently used methods of calculating weight in the pediatric and adolescent eating disorder populations, and see whether we can come up with a gold standard for clinical as well as for research purposes."

The study investigated BMI calculations against the Moore and McLaren methods. While BMI calculates mass percentiles based on a person’s height and weight, the Moore method compares height and weight against age-wide averages to compare percentiles.

The McLaren method is a bit more complicated, as it analyzes population features to determine a 50th percentile height and weight per age, comparing an individual’s actual proportions against this ideal.

Findings showed that of the three, BMI incorporated outliers most effectively and is believed to be the most useful method for varying ages, inches, and pounds.

Le Grange notes that their study, “wanted to make a clear statement to the pediatric and adolescent eating disorder community that we should all talk the same language and move forward in this way.”

Researchers also recommend citing the method of body weight calculations within their research, as well as incorporating the term “expected” in place of “ideal” in order to promote standardization and avoid the unrealistic body image goals within eating disorder patients.

Le Grange believes their guide is a “good clear clinical guide” and he hopes, “pediatricians in the community feel they can pick it up and have a handy tool in their clinical practice.”

If interested in learning about BMI calculations or if concerned about eating disorders, talk to a doctor or health professional to determine healthy goals for weight management.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 4, 2012
Last Updated:
January 4, 2012