Are South Asians overweight?
South Asians may not appear to be as overweight as other ethnic groups. However, they may have inherited a gene that makes their bodies store more fat around their stomach, a factor referred to as central obesity. This type of body fat is linked to a higher rate of diabetes and heart attacks. The typical body shape of a South Asian who is at a high risk for these conditions involves a large stomach with relatively slender arms and legs.
Is body mass index (BMI) an accurate measure?
Since very little excess weight goes a long way towards increasing a South Asian's risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, a modified body mass index (BMI) scale has been developed for this demographic:
South Asian BMI (Body Mass Index) Calculator
Underweight: 18.4 or less
Healthy: 18.5 to 23
Overweight: 23.1 to 25
Obese: Greater than 25
If your score is 23.1 or above, get screened for diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension.
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What other measures exist for body size?
Studies have shown that measurements that involve abdominal fat are more accurate than BMI in assessing heart attack risk in South Asians. One example is the Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR): This is calculated by taking your waist circumference (measure around the smallest part of your waist, just above the belly button) and dividing it by your hip circumference (the widest part of your buttocks).
A WHR of greater than 0.90 in males and 0.85 in females puts you at a higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.
For tips on improving your body weight and size, visit our South Asian Nutrition page and our South Asian fitness page.
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Last reviewed: 2012