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Monday, April 30, 2012

Definition of obesity across races.

The data (NHANES III) from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) show that the black population has the highest proportion of overweight among all adult populations in the United States. In parallel Wang et al (1996) compared the body mass index (BMI) and body fat percent from dual-photon absorptiometry in 1,324 healthy adults recruited from four ethnic groups in the New York City area; 523 whites, 280 blacks, 267 Asians and 254 Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans had the largest BMI and the largest percent of subjects with body weight more than 120% of their ideal weight, and the largest fat percent of the four ethnic groups Asians had the smallest BMI, but 63% of them had fat percent above the median values for whites in each gender. In blacks, the percent of subjects with fat percent larger than the median for whites was slightly smaller than that for Puerto Ricans, 64% and 82% of males and females respectively. However, these results differ from the latest NCHS data and show that Puerto Ricans in this sample are heavier and fatter than blacks, there is still an implication that different BMI values should be used for different races. In other words, Asians reach the body fat definition of obesity at a much lower BMI than Caucasians, and this seems to be true for the other non-white races, to a lesser extent. But for blacks, this result seems to contradict other published reports. Kleerekoper et al (1994) suggested that blacks have less fat and more muscle than whites at the same BMI, but Gallagher et al (1996) didn't find a significant difference, after controlling for leg length taking into account that blacks generally have longer legs than whites.

A meta analysis of literature data for the populations of American Blacks, Caucasians, Chinese, Ethiopians, Indonesians, Polynesians and Thais by Deurenberg et al (1998) showed that when assuming a constant Body Fat percentage, different races have different Body Mass Index values to achieve the same body fat percentage. 

Maria Toumpi | Clinical Nutritionist - Dietitian MSc
Photography by:  nkourdo

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