Assessment of obesity in New Zealand Chinese: a comparative analysis of adults aged 30-39 years from five ethnic groups

N Z Med J. 2010 Dec 17;123(1327):87-98.


Aims: To compare the relationships between body mass index (BMI) and percentage body fat (%BF) in New Zealand Chinese aged 30-39 years and their European, Māori, Pacific Island, and Asian Indian counterparts.

Methods: Healthy Chinese (M20, F23) were selected to cover a wide range of BMI. European (M29, F37), Maori (M23, F23), Pacific Island (M15, F23), and Asian Indian (M29, F25) volunteers were drawn from existing data. Total and regional body fat and arm and leg lengths were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.

Results: For fixed BMI, Chinese had a higher %BF than European and less %BF than Asian Indian. At a %BF equivalent to a BMI of 30 kg/m2 in Europeans (WHO threshold for obesity), BMI values for Asian Indian and Chinese women were 5.8 and 2.2 units lower than European, respectively, and for Asian Indian and Chinese men, 8.2 and 3.0 units lower. Chinese had relatively shorter arm and leg lengths than Asian Indians and Europeans with a significantly higher ratio of central fat mass to limb fat mass.

Conclusions: The %BF-BMI relationships for Asian Indian and Chinese differ from Europeans and from each other and different BMI obesity thresholds may be required for these Asian ethnic groups.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Body Height / ethnology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bone Density
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / ethnology
  • Male
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data*
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Sex Factors
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*