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

Jane Jih, Arnab Mukherjea, Eric Vittinghoff, Tung T. Nguyen, Janice Y. Tsoh, Yoshii Fukuoka, Melinda S. Bender, Winston Tseng, Alka M. Kanaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


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/m2; obese≥27.5kg/m2) were used for Asian subgroups. Standard BMI cut points (overweight=25-29.9kg/m2; obese≥30kg/m2) 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/m2 and Koreans, Filipinos and Japanese with BMI=27.5-29.9kg/m2, 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - 2014


  • Asian Americans
  • Minority health
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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