Chinese, Japanese and Korean populations were much like groups in other parts of the world. These East Asians with a raised BMI of 35.0 or higher had a 50 percent higher risk of death. The same was not true for Indians and Bangladeshis, indicating that a high BMI did not affect all ethnic groups in a similar way.
Being severely underweight was even more dangerous among all of the Asian populations studied. The risk of death was increased by a factor of 2.8 among those whose BMI was very low, that is, 15.0 or less.
"The most unexpected finding was that obesity among sub-continent Indians was not associated with excess mortality," said Potter. "This may be because many obese people in sub-continent India have a higher socioeconomic status and so have better access to health care."
"Our findings capture two different aspects of a rapidly evolving pattern; severe underweight was highly prevalent in Asia in the past, and we can still observe its important impact on mortality," explained Boffetta. "Looking into the future, however, prevention of overweight and obesity deserves the highest priority."
The authors conclude that this study provides strong evidence supporting the biologic plausibility that excess weight contributes to a higher risk of death.
"This confirms that most people are at a higher risk for dying early if they are obese and is a clear message not to gain weight as we age," said Potter.
Nearly 50 researchers from seven countries contributed to this study. Data analysis for the project was conducted by the Asia Cohort Consortium Coordinating Center, which is supported, in part, by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the National Cancer Institute.
|Contact: Dagny Stuart|
Vanderbilt University Medical Center