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Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 Jul;3(3):A79. Epub 2006 Jun 15.

Assessing overweight and obesity risk among Korean Americans in California using World Health Organization body mass index criteria for Asians.

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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health, Behavior, and Society, 624 N Broadway, Room 727, Baltimore, MD 21205-1996, USA.



Although it is known that at comparable body mass index (BMI) levels Asian Americans have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes than whites, little is known about the social, behavioral, and cultural factors associated with obesity risk in this population.


A cross-sectional analysis of the 2003 California Health Interview Survey was performed to estimate overweight and obesity prevalence among Korean Americans using BMI criteria suggested by the World Health Organization for Asian populations worldwide. In addition, associations between demographics, social, behavioral, and cultural factors and the risk of being overweight and obese were examined.


Of 492 Korean American respondents, 38% were overweight and 8% were obese according to World Health Organization body mass index criteria for Asians. In a multivariate analysis, sex, marital status, poverty, and length of residence in the United States were associated with BMI. Men were more likely to be overweight or obese than women, and length of residence in the United States was strongly associated with higher body mass index.


Like other ethnic groups, Korean Americans have a sociodemographic profile that is identified with an increased risk of becoming obese. Considering these factors in developing early diet and physical activity interventions could be an important opportunity to prevent weight gain and diminish disease caused by obesity. This study also suggests how meaningful BMI criteria tailored for Asian Americans could be used to more accurately measure risk of obesity within a heterogeneous population such as the U.S. population.

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