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Even though obesity can indicate a risk for heart disease and diabetes in white people, it may not be as reliable for predicting these risks in other racial and ethnic groups, a U.S. study suggests.

Almost one in three people with a healthy weight for their height based on a measurement known as body mass index (BMI) still had at least one risk factor for heart disease such as elevated blood pressure or high levels of sugars, fats or cholesterol in the blood, the study found.

Among white people in the study, only 21 percent normal weight individuals based on BMI, or about one in five, had risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. But a much higher proportion of healthy weight people in other racial and ethnic groups had heart or diabetes risk factors: 31 percent of black people, 32 percent of participants of Chinese descent, 39 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of South Asians.

“These results show that having a normal BMI does not necessarily protect an individual from cardiometabolic risk,” said lead study author Unjali Gujral, a public health researcher at Emory University in Atlanta.

“We advocate a heart healthy diet and lots of exercise in all individuals, regardless of race/ethnicity and body weight, but especially in those who are members of racial/ethnic minority populations,” Gujral said by email. “It is also important for patients, particularly those who are Asian American, Hispanic American and African American to have conversations with their physicians/healthcare providers regarding their increased risk for heart disease even at normal weight.”

For the study, researchers examined data on adults aged 44 to 84 living in seven U.S. cities. Within this group, 2,622 were white, 803 were Chinese, 1,893 were black, 1,496 were Hispanic and 803 were South Asian.

They used data on participants’ height and weight to calculate BMI and then see how often a healthy BMI was associated with common risk factors for heart…



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