New research from the University of Otago has found that the use of BMI (Body Mass Index) as an indicator of cardiovascular risk among Māori and Pacific people may be misleading.
Cardiovascular researchers from the University of Otago and Dunedin Hospital have been studying a special form of fat around the heart, epicardial adipose tissue, which has been linked to an increase in heart attacks and heart rhythm issues.
The study, led by senior lecturer at the Department of Medicine in Dunedin Dr Sean Coffey, sought to find out whether BMI was a good indicator of the thickness of this tissue.
In its findings published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, it found that while BMI was a good indicator of the thickness of the fat around a New Zealand European's heart, it was found to be unlikely to be an accurate predictor for Māori or Pacific people.
"The use of BMI as an indicator for cardiovascular disease risk among Māori and Pacific people may be misleading and contribute to the disparate outcomes among these populations," Dr Coffey said.
He said the study found there "is really almost no link" between the BMI of a Māori or Pacific person and the special fatty tissue around the heart.
A research project is under way at the university to establish whether the fatness of the epicardial adipose tissue is a particularly significant risk factor of a heart attack.
Coffey said if it was a significant indicator, then they would need to measure the tissue with a heart scan, which was simple enough to put into routine cardiology practice.