A study that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that being either underweight, overweight or obese greatly increases chances of death in Asian people.
A team of about 50 researchers examined more than 1 million Asians for the study. They found that the healthiest individuals had body mass indexes (BMI) between 22.6 and 27.5 — which is normal to slightly overweight.
Participants with a BMI of 35 or above — classified as obese — had a 50 percent higher chance of death than counterparts of a normal weight. However, having too little body fat proved to be even more detrimental since individuals with a BMI of 15 or lower were nearly three times more likely to die.
Interestingly, a high BMI did not correlate with an increased chance of death for Indians or Bangladeshis. Authors noted that overweight people in this region tend to be of a higher class than normal or underweight residents, and therefore likely have better access to healthcare.
Previous trials that weighed the risks of abnormal BMI have included health data of mostly people of European descent. This study shows that the same risks apply to Asians, suggesting that the problem may be biological rather than cultural and can affect a person of any ethnic background.
A 2006 Johns Hopkins University study also supported this theory in a trial of 1.2 million Korean people.
“Past studies were conducted primarily in Western populations and we did not know if these results would apply in Asian populations, which tend to be thinner but have a higher percentage of body fat than do their Western counterparts,” said Jonathan M. Samet, MD, senior author of the study and professor and chair of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology.