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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2001 Sep;4(5):377-83.

Differences in body-composition assumptions across ethnic groups: practical consequences.

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Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.


Body-composition methodologies rely on assumptions that are not constant across ethnic groups. The consequence is that the methods used need to be population specific to guarantee unbiased conclusions. Alternatively, assumption-free methods such as chemical multiple-compartment models or scanning techniques should be used. Adequate and unbiased scientific data on body fat among ethnic population groups are necessary for a better understanding of the aetiology of obesity and its co-morbidities. The World Health Organization cut-off points for underweight, overweight, obesity and fat distribution, now universally defined, may need revision because the relationship between body mass index and body composition, and between indices of fat distribution and the actual amount of visceral fat, differ across ethnic groups. The need for ethnically specific cut-off points for obesity and fat distribution is substantiated, for example, by elevated disease risks at low levels of body mass index in several populations. Properly designed and conducted studies are needed to obtain unbiased information on these topics.

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