Background: Body mass index (BMI) cut-offs associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease differ between European and Asian populations, and among Asian populations. Within-population and ethnic variability in body shape has likewise been linked with variability in cardiovascular risk in western settings.
Objectives: To explore differences between Thai and White UK adults in body shape and its associations with height, age and BMI.
Methods: Data on weight and body shape by 3-D photonic scanning from National Sizing Surveys of UK (3542 men, 4130 women) and Thai (5889 men, 6499 women) adults aged 16-90 years, using a common protocol and methodology, were analysed.
Results: Thai adults in both sexes had significantly smaller body girths than UK adults after adjusting for age and height. Matching for BMI, and adjusting for height and age, Thais in both sexes tended to have similar or greater limb girths, but significantly smaller torso girths (especially waist and hip) than UK individuals. These results were replicated within narrow BMI bands at similar to 20 and similar to 25 kgm(-2). Shape-age associations also differed between the populations.
Discussion: Young Thai adults have a significantly slighter physique than White UK adults, with a less central distribution of body weight. However these differences reduce with age, especially in males. The 3-D photonic scanning provides detailed digital anthropometric data capable of monitoring between-and within-individual shape variability. The technology merits further application to investigate whether variability in body shape is more sensitive to metabolic risk than BMI within and between-populations. International Journal of Obesity (2012) 36, 148-154; doi:10.1038/ijo.2011.51; published online 8 March 2011