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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Feb;27(2):253-9.

Low body mass index but high percent body fat in Taiwanese subjects: implications of obesity cutoffs.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, National Cheng Kung University Hospital, Tainan, Taiwan.



To compare the different correlations of body mass index (BMI) and percent body fat (BF%) with other ethnic groups and to evaluate the appropriateness of Asia-Pacific redefining obesity criteria in the Taiwanese population. The corresponding BF% to BMI cutoffs of overweight and obesity will also be studied.


A cross-sectional epidemiological survey.


A total of 509 male and 570 female Taiwanese subjects aged > or =20 y sampled by the systematic stratified clustering sampling method were analyzed.


BMI was obtained by body weight (kg) divided by squared body height (m(2)). The estimated BMI (BMIe) was deduced from the Caucasian-based four-compartment equation (4C). BF% measured by the methods of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or Caucasian-based 4C were used and abbreviated as DXA-BF and 4C-BF, respectively.


The curvilinear relationship between age and BMI or DXA-BF was established. When compared by age-stratified groups, Taiwanese subjects had a higher BF% (4C-BF) in any given BMI than Caucasians. That is, the level of 4C-BF for BMI> or =25 kg/m(2) in Taiwanese subjects was similar to BMI> or =30 kg/m(2) in Caucasians. The BMIe values of 25 and 30 kg/m(2) were nearly equal to the BMIs of 23.6 and 25.3 kg/m(2) in males, and 22.7 and 24.8 kg/m(2) in females, respectively. The 4C-BF of 25% was nearly equal to a BMI of 26.2 kg/m(2) in males, and 35% was equal to a BMI of 24.4 kg/m(2) in females. Consequently, the DXA-BF cutoffs for BMIs of 23 and 25 kg/m(2) were compatible to 23 and 25% in males, and 35 and 38% in females, respectively.


It was demonstrated that Taiwanese subjects had a relatively lower BMI but a higher BF% than Caucasians. In general, the newly proposed Asia-Pacific BMI cutoffs for overweight (> or =23 kg/m(2)) and obesity (> or =25 kg/m(2)) may be acceptable to both male and female Taiwanese subjects. The corresponding BF% (DXA-BF) cutoffs for obesity would be 25% in male and 38% in female Taiwanese subjects, respectively.

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