The threshold for being overweight or obese has been lowered in India, as people of South Asian origin are more likely than white people to develop obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Indian health experts have also called for the threshold point to be lowered for all South Asian people across the world, including in the UK.
Global obesity measurements
Standards used around the world to tell when someone is overweight or obese are based on data from white people. These state that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more are overweight and obese if it goes above 30. BMI is calculated using weight and height.
In India those limits have been lowered to 23 for being overweight and 25 for being obese, to reflect the risks for their own population. They also have lower thresholds for waist circumference measurements.
The move has led to an extra 70 million people being re-classified as overweight or obese. This means that doctors in India are encouraged to intervene earlier, sometimes with drugs or surgery.
New methods need to be examined
“We know that Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to being overweight, is up to six times more common in South Asian people than the white population," said Pav Kalsi, Care Advisor at Diabetes UK.
“South Asian people make up four per cent of the total UK population and an estimated eight per cent of people with diabetes. It is crucial we examine new methods of identifying South Asian people who are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and Diabetes UK welcomes any developments in this area.
“It will be interesting to see how effectively the new BMI cut-off points for South Asian people in India pinpoint those at increased risk of obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.”