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Reported January 9, 2004

BMI Standards Different for Asians

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- New research shows the standards for body mass index (BMI) when defining overweight and obesity may not be appropriate for some Asian populations. The study shows lower BMI levels could have health benefits for Asians.

The World Health Organization (WHO) set up classifications for overweight and obesity meant for international use. The cut-off points reflect a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. But research is showing there is an increase in prevalence of type 2 diabetes and increased cardiovascular factors in parts of Asia where the average BMI is below the cut off point. A WHO expert consultation led by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine looked at the merits of BMI as an indicator of health outcomes across different ethnic populations.

For the study, researchers reviewed data that suggested Asian populations have different associations between BMI, percentage of body fat, and health risks than do European populations. They found that this information is correct. Researchers report the proportion of Asian people with a high risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease is substantial at BMIs lower than the existing cut off point for overweight. However, study authors say current research does not make it clear what the cut off point for Asians should be to adjust for this health risk.

While study authors agreed that the current BMI cut off points should be maintained for now, they say further research is needed on specific ethnic groups. Furthermore, they say methods by which countries could make decisions about the definitions of increased risk for their population need to be established.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

SOURCE: The Lancet, 2004;363:157-163

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