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close this bookThe Functional Significance of Low Body Mass Index (International Dietary Energy Consultative Group - IDECG, 1992, 203 pages)
close this folderThe body mass index of Chinese adults in the 1980s*
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(introductory text...)

Correspondence to: Keyou Ge.

* This paper is also published currently in The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, but is included here for the sake of convenience and completeness, with permission of the Editors-in-Chief of both journals.

K. Ge1, R. Weisell2, X. Guol, L. Cheng1, H. Ma1, F. Zhai1 and B. M. Popkin3

1Institute of nutrition and Food Hygiene, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, 29 Nan Wei Road,
100050 Beijing, People's Republic of China; 2Food Policy and Nutrition Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy; and 3Nutrition Department, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

Patterns and trends in the body composition of Chinese adults are studied with data from the 1982 China Nationwide Nutrition Survey (CNS-82) and the 1989 China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS-89). The CNS-82 showed rural inhabitants were ~3 kg lighter than urban residents and ~2.2 cm shorter. Males were heavier (55.2 ± 7.4 vs 50.7 ± 8.0 kg) and taller (165.3 ± 7.3 and 153.5 ± 6.3 cm). Using a cut-off for underweight of a body mass index (BMI: kg/m2) <18.5 and for obesity of >25, 11.6% and 12.9% of the urban and rural sample were underweight and 9.8% and 6.9% respectively were overweight.

The CHNS-89 surveyed 5138 adults aged 20-45 in eight selected provinces. The proportion of underweight in both urban and rural samples declined slightly ± (1.3%) but the proportion of obesity increased considerably (4.8% for the urban sample and 2% for the rural one). Increased income was significantly associated with reduced low body mass index (BMI: kg/m2) in the urban sample while, for the rural and overall samples, the opposite was found for obesity. Provincial patterns in energy intake were not associated with the distribution of BMI while occupation was. In particular, government officials and housewives were much more likely to be obese as also were subpopulation groups consuming greater proportions of energy from animal sources.

Over 80% of the population fell in the normal BMI range (18.5-25). This may relate to the relatively even distribution of food in China during the past several decades.