Appropriate body-mass index for Asian populations and its implications for policy and intervention strategies

Lancet. 2004 Jan 10;363(9403):157-63. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(03)15268-3.


A WHO expert consultation addressed the debate about interpretation of recommended body-mass index (BMI) cut-off points for determining overweight and obesity in Asian populations, and considered whether population-specific cut-off points for BMI are necessary. They reviewed scientific evidence that suggests that Asian populations have different associations between BMI, percentage of body fat, and health risks than do European populations. The consultation concluded that the proportion of Asian people with a high risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease is substantial at BMIs lower than the existing WHO cut-off point for overweight (> or =25 kg/m2). However, available data do not necessarily indicate a clear BMI cut-off point for all Asians for overweight or obesity. The cut-off point for observed risk varies from 22 kg/m2 to 25 kg/m2 in different Asian populations; for high risk it varies from 26 kg/m2 to 31 kg/m2. No attempt was made, therefore, to redefine cut-off points for each population separately. The consultation also agreed that the WHO BMI cut-off points should be retained as international classifications. The consultation identified further potential public health action points (23.0, 27.5, 32.5, and 37.5 kg/m2) along the continuum of BMI, and proposed methods by which countries could make decisions about the definitions of increased risk for their population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods
  • Absorptiometry, Photon / standards
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Asian People / classification*
  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight* / ethnology
  • Consultants / statistics & numerical data
  • Densitometry / methods
  • Densitometry / standards
  • Deuterium Oxide
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Obesity / classification*
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • World Health Organization


  • Deuterium Oxide