Asian Americans tend not to be overweight

Asian Americans are far less likely to be overweight than Americans of other racial and ethnic groups, new CDC data show. (Los Angeles Times / January 15, 2014)

Which Americans are least likely to be overweight or obese? Asian Americans, by a long shot.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 38.6% of Asian American adults have a body mass index over 25, the threshold for being considered overweight. That’s far below the 66.7% rate among whites, 76.7% rate among blacks and 78.8% rate among Latinos.

Some Asian American adults are more likely to be overweight than others. For instance, 43% of men have a BMI over 25, compared with 34.7% of women. In addition, the prevalence of overweight adults is nearly 1.5 times higher among adults who are at least 40 years old than it is among those between the ages of 20 and 39, the data show.

The figures are based on physical measurements of Asian American volunteers who participated in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2011 and 2012. During those years, researchers recruited extra Asian Americans for the long-running study in order to bolster the “scarcity of health information” about this minority group, according to the new report, released Wednesday.

The researchers, from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, also report that 10.3% of Asian Americans have high total cholesterol, with at least 240 milligrams per deciliter of blood. That is “similar” to other American adults, according to the study.

The 14.3% who have low levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind) is lower than the 21.8% prevalence among people the CDC classified as Hispanic.

In addition, the researchers say that 25.6% of Asian American adults qualify as having hypertension because their blood pressure is at least 140/90 millimeters mercury or because they are taking blood pressure medications. That’s about the same as the prevalence for whites and Latinos, but lower than the 42.1% incidence among non-Hispanic African Americans.

Nearly 1 in 20 Americans is an Asian American -- a person of Chinese, Asian Indian, Korean, Philippine, Vietnamese or Japanese descent --  according to the CDC. That amounts to 15.4 million people, a figure that has climbed by more than 40% since 2000.

Asian Americans tend to be younger than white Americans, with 43.6% of the population between the ages of 20 and 39 and 19.3% past their 60th birthday, compared with 31.4% and 30% for whites, the data show.

The report also notes that 72.1% of Asian Americans attended school beyond high school and that 84.5% were born in another country.

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