Overweight Japanese With Body Mass Indexes of 23.0-24.9 Have Higher Risks for Obesity-Associated Disorders: A Comparison of Japanese and Mongolians

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Jan;28(1):152-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802486.


Objective: The degree of obesity of Asians is less than that of Caucasians. It has been suggested that Japanese, categorized as having normal weight (BMI<25.0), as defined by WHO (2000), have a tendency toward increased incidences of dyslipidemia and diabetes. Our objective was to analyze parameters constituting obesity-associated disorders in overweight Japanese and Mongolians with a body mass index (BMI) of 23.0-24.9, and to assess the suitability for Asians of the Regional Office for Western Pacific Region of WHO criteria pertaining to obesity (WPRO criteria, 2000).

Design: Cross-sectional study in a workplace setting.

Subjects: A total of 386 Japanese men and 363 Japanese women, and 102 Mongolian men and 155 Mongolian women.

Measurements: Anthropometric measurements (weight, height, waist circumference, hip circumference and blood pressure) and metabolic measurements (plasma levels of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose and insulin).

Results: Graded increases in BMI of Japanese and Mongolians were positively associated with body fat percent, waist circumference, hip circumference and waist/hip ratio. The Japanese were categorized as 22% overweight, 22% obese I, 3% obese II; the Mongolians rated as 18% overweight, 34% obese I, 19% obese II, based on the WPRO BMI criteria. The Mongolians had a higher prevalence of obesity and a higher body fat percent, but a lesser gradation of dyslipidemia, than did the BMI-matched Japanese groups. Overweight Japanese (BMI 23.0-24.9), in comparison to normal Japanese (BMI 18.5-22.9), had significant differences in systolic blood pressure, HDL-cholesterol and triglyceride in men, and in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, HDL-cholesterol, triglyceride, insulin and Homoeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance in women. In contrast, the Mongolians showed no significant differences in metabolic parameters between overweight and normal subjects, except for diastolic blood pressure.

Conclusion: Since the relationship between abdominal fat mass and BMI is ethnic-specific, a universal BMI cutoff point is inappropriate for Asian populations such as the Japanese and Mongolians. The present investigation suggests that, while the WPRO criteria are suitable for Japanese, the WHO criteria are more appropriate for Mongolians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight / ethnology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mongolia / ethnology
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol