The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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What’s not fat in West could be too fat in India
- call to revise obesity criteria

New Delhi, Nov. 9 (PTI): How fat is fat for Indians'

Several international experts favour criteria different from the international norms — based on a technical report of 1995 that relied on data from the western world — to define obesity among Indians and other Asians.

Many Indians do not fall in the obese category according to the international norms, yet there is a prevalence of bulk-related diseases like diabetes and heart disorders among them, said Prof. Anoop Misra from AIIMS’ department of medicine, who has debated the point in a paper in the International Journal of Obesity.

“Our recent data in Delhi showed that about 66 per cent men and 88 per cent women, classified as non-obese based on the values of one such parameter, body mass index (BMI), had risk factors for cardiovascular diseases like hypertension,” Misra said.

It is increasingly being proven that ethnicity has a lot to do with propensity to diseases.

Similarly, risk factors for heart diseases were also found in men whose waist circumference came within the normal range, Misra said. Similar data has also come in from Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan.

According to World Health Organisation norms, the lowest risk for diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension occurs between 18.5 and 25 BMI — the ratio of a person’s weight and height. People with BMI over 25 are categorised as overweight, those with over 30, obese. In waist circumference, the upper limit for men is 94 cm and for women 80 cm.

WHO’s regional adviser on non-communicable diseases Dr Jerzy Leowski said there is a need to discuss and revise BMI-based classification of obesity .

A WHO expert committee in July 2002 in Hong Kong had in July 2002 also concluded that individual countries should decide the appropriate BMI categories for their population based on their morbidity and mortality data. It had said that the optimum BMI for the Asian population should be narrowed to 18.5 and 23. Those who clocked in between 23 and 24.9 would be overweight and those over 25, obese.

But Prof. J. Stevens from the School of Public Health, University Of North Carolina, argues in the same journal that revision of BMI for Asians is not warranted unless there is comparable data from Caucasians to show that they don’t have a similar increased risk at the high end of normal range.

A study by Dr K. Srinath Reddy and Dr S.C. Manchanda at AIIMS’ cardiology department had also favoured different values for obesity parameters.

Currently, about 15 per cent of the Indian population falls under the category of obese. If the parameters are revised, the figure would swell to 25-30 per cent.

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