Few prospective data from the Asia Pacific region are available relating body mass index to the risk of diabetes. Our objective was to provide reliable age, sex and region specific estimates of the associations between body mass index and diabetes. Twenty-seven cohort studies from Asia, New Zealand and Australia, including 154,989 participants, contributed 1,244,793 person-years of follow-up. Outcome data included a combination of incidence of diabetes (based on blood glucose measurements) and fatal diabetes events. Hazard ratios were calculated from Cox models, stratified by sex and cohort, and adjusted for age at risk and smoking. During follow-up (mean = 8 years), 75 fatal diabetes events and 242 new cases of diabetes were documented. There were continuous positive associations between baseline body mass index and risk of diabetes with each 2 kg/m2 lower body mass index associated with a 27% (23-30%) lower risk of diabetes. The associations were stronger in younger age groups, and regional comparisons demonstrated slightly stronger associations in Asian than in Australasian cohorts (P = 0.04). This overview provides evidence of a strong continuous association between body mass index and diabetes in the Asia Pacific region. The results indicate considerable potential for reduction in incidence of diabetes with population-wide lowering of body mass index in this region.