Debate

International Journal of Obesity (2003) 27, 1297–1299. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802417

Ethnic-specific revisions of body mass index cutoffs to define overweight and obesity in Asians are not warranted

J Stevens1

1Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Correspondence: Professor J Stevens, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7461, USA. E-mail: June_Stevens@unc.edu

Received 20 May 2003; Accepted 2 June 2003.

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Abstract

Studies showing that Asians with a body mass index (BMI) at the high end of the 'normal' range are at increased risk of disease do not justify a different definition of obesity for that ethnic group without comparable data from Caucasians showing no similar increase in risk. The current BMI cutpoints for obesity are somewhat arbitrary, but there is value in a simple, uniform definition across populations. It seems prudent to separate the scientific construct of obesity from the politically linked, nationally specific BMI cutpoint used to trigger public health or clinical action.

Keywords:

Asians, Asian Indians, ethnicity, health policy, mortality, race, risk, waist circumference

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