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Open Access Research article

Underestimation of weight and its associated factors among overweight and obese adults in Pakistan: a cross sectional study

Seema Bhanji1*, Ali Khan Khuwaja12, Fawad Siddiqui1, Iqbal Azam2 and Khawar Kazmi3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, The Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, PO Box 3500, Karachi - 74800, Pakistan

2 Department of Community Health Sciences, The Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, PO Box 3500, Karachi - 74800, Pakistan

3 Section of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, The Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, PO Box, 3500, Karachi - 74800, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:363  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-363

Published: 23 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Weight loss is known to decrease the health risks associated with being overweight and obese. Awareness of overweight status is an important determinant of weight loss attempts and may have more of an impact on one's decision to lose weight than objective weight status. We therefore investigated the perception of weight among adults attending primary care clinics in Karachi, Pakistan, and compared it to their weight categories based on BMI (Body Mass Index), focusing on the underestimation of weight in overweight and obese individuals. We also explored the factors associated with underestimation of weight in these individuals.

Methods

This was a cross sectional study conducted on 493 adults presenting to the three primary care clinics affiliated with a tertiary care hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. We conducted face to face interviews to gather data on a pre-coded questionnaire. The questionnaire included detail on demographics, presence of comorbid conditions, and questions regarding weight assessment. We measured height and weight of the participants and calculated the BMI. The BMI was categorized into normal weight, overweight and obese based on the revised definitions for Asian populations. Perception about weight was determined by asking the study participants the following question: Do you consider yourself to be a) thin b) just right c) overweight d) obese. We compared the responses with the categorized BMI. To identify factors associated with underestimation of weight, we used simple and multiple logistic regression to calculate crude odds Ratios (OR) and adjusted Odds Ratios (AOR) with 95% Confidence Intervals.

Results

Overall 45.8% (n = 226) of the study participants were obese and 18% (n = 89) were overweight. There was poor agreement between self perception and actual BMI (Kappa = 0.24, SE = 0.027, p < 0.001). Among obese participants a large proportion (73%) did not perceive themselves as obese, although half (n = 102) of them thought they may be overweight. Among the overweight participants, half (n = 41) of them didn't recognize themselves as overweight. Factors associated with misperception of weight in overweight and obese participants were age ≥ 40 years (AOR = 3.4; 95% CI: 1.8-6.4), male gender (AOR = 2.97; 95% CI: 1.6-5.5), being happy with ones' weight (AOR = 6.4; 95% CI: 3.4-12.1), and not knowing one's ideal weight (AOR = 2.45, 95% CI: 1.10-5.47).

Conclusion

In this cross sectional survey, we observed marked discordance between the actual and perceived weight. Underestimation of individual weight was more common in older participants (≥ 40 years), men, participants happy with their weight and participants not aware of their ideal weight. Accurate perception of one's actual weight is critical for individuals to be receptive to public health messages about weight maintenance or weight loss goals. Therefore educating people about their correct weight, healthy weights and prevention of weight gain are important steps towards addressing the issue of obesity in Pakistan.