Variations exist among Asian American adults with obesity

A physician works at her desk while reviewing patient data on a laptop.

The number of Asian American adults who are obese varies significantly by subgroup, according to NHLBI-supported research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. After reviewing data from more than 2.8 million Americans, including 71,000 Asian Americans, researchers found that 11% of Asian Americans are obese, based on standard body mass index (BMI) calculations. These figures increased to 22% after researchers used personalized BMI calculations for Asian adults.

Obesity, which is often defined as having a BMI of 30 or more, is associated with increased risks for chronic conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, sleep disorders, and severe COVID-19 outcomes. However, health organizations have suggested lower cut-off points for obesity, starting at 27.5, for adults with Asian ancestry. This is because Asian adults have been more likely to develop risks for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes at lower body weights compared to white adults.

Based on the personalized BMI calculations, researchers found variations within six Asian American subgroups. About one in four Filipino, Japanese, and Asian Indian; one in six Korean; and one in
eight Vietnamese and Chinese Americans had obesity, based on self-reported height and weight. The authors conclude the findings could help healthcare providers and public health practitioners identify and support adults at greatest risk.