Lets call this science into question, shall we?

Hong Kong Body Mass Index and percent body fat

Comments about the Chinese body mass index and percent body fat correlation, and cut offs.

It’s nice to read a concise article like this, that presents its data with completeness, and makes decent interpretation and conclusions.

The article says that "In Asians, the new proposed cut-offs for overweight and for obesity are >=23.0 and >=25.0 kg/m2."

Here’s some of their data. I’m particularly interested to point out the relatively high body fat percentages in Hong Kong women, with relatively low BMI values.

  20-30yrs 31-40 41-50 51-60 >60 all
median BMI 21.5 23.7 23.8 21.7 23.7 23.0
% body fat 18.0% 23.9% 23.5% 22.1% 26.9% 23.0%
median BMI 20.3 21.3 23.2 23.2 23.2 22.4
% body fat 29.7% 32.6% 36.6% 38.5% 39.3% 35.2%

– "In men, a 25% body fat percentage correspondes to a mean BMI of 24.6. In women, a 35% body fat percentage corresponds to a mean BMI of 22.6."

Ah ha. It appears they are already using 25% (men) and 35% (women) body fat percentage as a definition of obesity. That’s higher (in women) than the often seen 30% criteria, and higher than the 33% that is also reasonably common. Where did they get their 35% criteria? From Deurenberg1.


Talking Moose
Talking Moose
Aren’t you going to say something extra?

Hector Hector
Who, me?

Dr. Halls Dr. Halls
Hi Hector. Lets just say that women everywhere are rejoicing that 35 percent body fat is the top of the normal range.

Hector Hector
I’m happy too. Being too skinny also means wrinkly. I like healthy girls.

Talking Moose
Talking Moose
Chinese girls?

Hector Hector
I like two kinds of girls. Domestic and Foreign.


Update in 2015. I wrote the above review in year 2000ish, added the chat in 2014. Now in 2015, I am calling this research publication into question. It may have been bad technical procedures that caused these Asian people to seem to have higher body fat. Perhaps their short legs on an impedance weigh scale, caused errors in the body fat readings, or something like that. I know it says they used a DEXA machine, not impedance, so maybe it was a DEXA problem. So, I now say be cautious and it’s probably safer to assume that people of different races are more similar to each other, than this article says.


  1. Deurenberg P, Yap M, van Staveren WA. Body mass index and percent body fat: a meta analysis among different ethnic groups. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1998; 22:1164-1171.

Did you click on any faces or find other surprises?


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