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Untitled Document

BMI In Indians

The Body Mass Index is a measure of the body weight relative to height that is associated with body fat and health risk. It was developed in the mid 1800's by a Belgian mathematician named Adolphe Quetelet. It is equal to the weight, divided by the square of the height.

The equation is: BMI = body weight in kilograms/height in meters squared.
The following are common definitions of BMI thresholds:

  • Underweight: Less than 18.5
  • Healthy and Low Risk: Greater than or equal to 18.5 but less than 25
  • Overweight: Greater than or equal to 25 but less than 30
  • Obese Class I (considered high risk): Greater than or equal to 30
  • Obese Class II (considered obese morbidly and very high risk): Greater than or equal to 35
  • Obese Class III (considered morbidly obese): Greater than or equal to 40

Obesity is being recognized as potential threat to health and must be treated at the right time. With obesity increasing, the risk for developing several diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart ailments, stroke, osteoarthritis, etc., also increases.
As per research statistics, India will become the global diabetes capital by 2050. The current load of diabetes in India is 41 million, which is expected to rise by 170 % in the next 20 years. Even today, India has the largest population of diabetics in the world.

As per studies, the absolute mortality due to chronic heart diseases in India will increase to 20.3 million annually by 2010, and by 2020 it will touch 2.58 million. One in every three Indians has high blood pressure, which is expected to shoot by 60% in the next 20 years.

And this statistics has made the Health Ministry to reduce the diagnostic cut-offs for BMI to 23 kg/m2 and the standard waist circumference to fight the battle against obesity. The standards have been set for the first time in the Ministry's consensus guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome for the country as released on October 2008. The guidelines were released jointly by the Health Ministry, the Diabetes Foundation of India (DFI), the All-India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and 20 other health organisations.

India's new diagnostic cut-off for the body mass index is 23 kg/m2 as opposed to 25 kg/m2 globally. A person with a body mass index of 23 kg/m2 will now be considered overweight and below 23 kg/m2 as one with normal BMI, unlike the cut-off limit of 25 kg/m2 earlier. Now, those with BMI of 25 kg/m2 will be clinically termed obese (as opposed to 30 kg/m2 at the international level), and those with BMI of 32.5 kg/m2 will require bariatric surgery to eliminate excess flab.

Now, the BMI limit for Indians is:
Less than 18.4 - Underweight
18.5 - 22.9 - Normal
23 - 24.9 - Overweight
More than 25 - Obese

Also, according to the guidelines, the cut-offs for waist circumstances will now be 90 cm for Indian men (as opposed to 102 cm globally) and 80 cm for Indian women (as opposed to 88 cm at the international level).

Researches over the last several years have shown that Indian bodies and genetics are different from their western counterparts as Indians suffer from abdominal obesity compared to people in the West whose bodies are uniformly obese.  This body composition puts Indian in the high risk zone for diabetes and hypertension.

The need for weight and fitness guidelines, specific to Asian countries, was first stressed in a study by the World Health Organisation's (WHO) sub-committee set up to look into obesity and metabolic syndromes (Syndrome X heart disease, diabetes and obesity) in the Asia-Pacific region in 2000.

India has first time officially compiled its weight and flab statistics, and this decision is a step to fight against obesity and its direct fallout Diabetes. With more awareness on fitness and wellbeing issues, there is a hope that the statistics for health among Indians in the coming few years will improve.