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Quick question for counsellors re: Asian BMI.


Cambridge Counsellor
Hi there.

I remember reading (in one of the counsellor modules, I think) that people of Asian origin should ideally weigh a bit less than white/black people (due to slighter build?), so therefore the BMI to aim for would be lower than 25.

If i'm right, then what is the ideal BMI range for a person of Asian origin, and do the rules over what BMI is suitable for ss then differ because of this?

Also, i'm assuming Asian would mean both Indian and Oriental?

Thanks in advance.

Jo x

P.S. I hope I haven't offended anyone with my racial terminology - I've tried to word my post sensitively!
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Staff member
Comments and Key points

For Singapore Asians, the study suggests using a BMI of 27.0 as the cutoff for Obesity ( instead of 30 ), and using a Body Mass Index of 21.0 as the cutoff for Overweight ( instead of 25 ), because these values match the same body fat percentages as caucasians.
These values also match the values used in Indonesia.
Singapore's 3 main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malays and Indians have slightly different body fat, body composition differences. The Obesity threshold for Singapore Indians would therefore be 26.
Review & comments by Steven B. Halls, MD, modificated: 10 November, 2003, Copyright.
See other BMI studies.

Source: Singapore's BMI adjustment for Asian race


Staff member
Hi Jo,

I am sure a CDC will be along shortly and fill you in on their rules on SSing.

Hope this helps.

Love Mini xxx
OK, you could have just made my day. My family's from india originally but if the singapore indian bmi applies to me, that would be fab. my bmi is 26.3 so I'm nearly normal (well in bmi anyway:D ).

By the way, the definitions of ethnic origin are a nightmare. Someone said south asian in a meeting the other day and I had no idea what they were on about. Turns out they meant me. And I though I was so cuturally sensitive:rolleyes: He was American and so PC he was appalled I hadn't realised. I'm not used to it - I work in the oil industry and somewhere along the way I've gotten as bad as them!
I think Issy is right...I can't look it up right now as in the middle of moving and have packed up my books but bascially Asian BMI's are supposed to be lower than caucasian peeps as in general they are made smaller.

So....healthy range is less than 25 I'm afraid.....sorry!


Cambridge Counsellor
Mini: Thanks for that - you were really helpful! I am a cdc, btw, but am just unsure of the exact definitions! I was trying to explain the BMI thing to an Asian/Indian client, the other day, but wasn't very exact as I was unsure of the exact BMI figures.

Soraya: Phew! I try so hard to word this kind of stuff in a non-offensive (potentially) way, so it's nice to know that 'those in the know' have similar problems too!

Isobel & Coley: Well, at least I know i'm not just making it up, and have actually read it somewhere, anyway!

Thanks girls. :)

Jo x


Silver Member
I think Asian BMI is orientals...ie Korean, Japanese and Chinese and Singapore...

Thats what i always assumed...

Long response

OK - with a vested interest in this I did some research and it's very mixed. Some confusion comes from terminonolgy - in the States Asian means chinese, korean, japanese and South Indian means indian/pakistani/bangladesh.

When American research is quoted in the UK the include indian people in Asian.

The lower bmi comes from research where it meant chinese etc. and seems to be based on body fat % and different body shapes.

However, there is also research showing indian people have predisposition to diabetes and that even at bmi of 25 more likely to develop it so they think that if indian people keep their bmi lower as well it's better - but not good evidence for the link that I could see.

Current World Health Advice is 23 for asian and south asian. But they say each country should set its own. UK is 25 for general population. Singapore 23 for chinese decent and 26 for indian. They did their own research and in Singapore high levels of diabetes not showing among indians which may mean lifestyle and diet rather than genetic as such.

Hope this long response helps. I'm sticking to my target!
Hi Isobel - that's the basis for the lower bmi for chinese, korean, japanese bmi. Based on shorted leg length as that mean lower % of muscle to bodyfat.

Have to say that if you went for a grant now there would be a lot of raised eyebrows at that as a basis for asking for funding!

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