Lower BMI thresholds should be applied to people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups to help curb the rise of diabetes.
Recommendations from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state the measurement system may be “applied wrongly” to BME people.
For the BME population a body mass index (BMI) of 23, not 25, should be the optimal score for those with diabetes.
“The point at which the level of body fat becomes risky to health varies between ethnic groups,” said Professor Mike Kelly, NICE director of public health.
“The number of people affected by these health conditions is far greater among black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups – despite rates of obesity among these groups being similar to the white population.”
In the UK people of black African or Caribbean descent are three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the white population.
Type 2 diabetes is also more common among Chinese people, and people from all of these groups are more at risk of stroke.
Catherine Law, professor of public health and epidemiology at University College London said: “Our recommendations should help people assessing BMI and waist circumference to be aware that people from minority ethnic groups are at equivalent risk for diabetes and mortality at a lower BMI than white people, and then to act to help reduce those risks.”
NICE has urged healthcare professionals to raise awareness of the need for lifestyle interventions at a lower BMI threshold.