Using appropriate body mass index cut points for overweight and obesity among Asian Americans

Prev Med. 2014 Aug;65:1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.04.010. Epub 2014 Apr 13.


Objective: Asian Americans have low prevalence of overweight/obesity based on standard BMI cut points yet have higher rates of diabetes. We examined the prevalence of overweight/obesity, using lower BMI cut points recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for Asians, and diabetes in Asian American subgroups in California.

Method: Secondary analysis of the 2009 adult California Health Interview Survey (n=45,946) of non-Hispanic Whites (NHW), African Americans, Hispanics and Asians (Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, South Asian and Japanese). WHO Asian BMI cut points (overweight=23-27.5kg/m(2); obese≥27.5kg/m(2)) were used for Asian subgroups. Standard BMI cut points (overweight=25-29.9kg/m(2); obese≥30kg/m(2)) were applied for other groups.

Results: Among Asian subgroups, overweight/obesity was highest among Filipinos (78.6%), which was higher than NHWs (p<0.001) but similar to African Americans and Hispanics. Compared to NHW, diabetes prevalence was higher for Vietnamese, Koreans, Filipinos and South Asians with BMI=23-24.9kg/m(2) and Koreans, Filipinos and Japanese with BMI=27.5-29.9kg/m(2), the ranges WHO recommends as overweight or obese for Asians but not for other groups.

Conclusions: Filipinos should be a priority population for overweight/obesity screening. Filipinos, Vietnamese, Korean, South Asians and Japanese have higher diabetes prevalence at lower BMI cut points. WHO Asian BMI cut points may have clinical utility to identify at-risk Asian Americans.

Keywords: Asian Americans; Minority health; Obesity; Overweight; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Asian Americans / ethnology
  • Asian Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Asians / ethnology
  • Asians / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Mass Index*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / classification
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Overweight / classification
  • Overweight / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Reference Values
  • Time Factors
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data
  • World Health Organization