Human Variation and Body Mass Index: A Review of the Universality of BMI Cut-Offs, Gender and Urban-Rural Differences, and Secular Changes

J Physiol Anthropol. 2007 Mar;26(2):109-12. doi: 10.2114/jpa2.26.109.


Use of BMI as a surrogate for body fat percentage is debatable and universal BMI cut-off points do not seem appropriate; lower cut-off points than currently recommended by WHO should be used in some populations, especially in Asia. The adult WHO BMI database indicates that, on average, women are more obese than men, while men are more likely to be pre-obese than women. Urban rates of overweight and obesity are generally higher than rural rates in both sexes. The trend in pre-obesity and obesity over time is generally upward, with very marked increases in the USA and UK in both sexes over the last 10 years.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Databases, Factual / trends
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Genetic Variation
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Rural Health
  • Urban Health
  • World Health Organization