Japan Health Chart 1

Japanese Women Have the Lowest Obesity
in the Developed World.

% BMI of 30 or Higher:

Country
Men
Women
Greece
United States
Israel
Portugal
England
Germany
Australia
Finland
New Zealand
Iceland
Ireland
Spain
Canada
Austria
Luxembourg
Belgium
Sweden*
Denmark
France
Norway
Switzerland*
Netherlands
Italy
Japan
27
28
20
14
22
22
19
20
15
17
20
13
16
10
14
14
15
12
11
10
14
10
9
3
38
34
26
26
23
23
22
19
19
18
16
16
14
14
13
13
11
11
11
11
10
10
10
3

 

*urban
Source: International Obesity Task Force website, http://www.iotf.org/, “Database” section, “Global Prevalence” chart, accessed October 31, 2005, figures for developed countries, rounded to nearest percentage point. See website for full notes and data. The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) is a part of the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO), a non-governmental organization that has official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO).Notes: Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a widely-used method for classifying overweight and obesity that is calculated by dividing body weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. In adult men and women, overweight is defined by The World Health Organization (WHO) as a BMI of >=25, and obesity is defined as a BMI of >=30.Inside Japan, obesity is often defined by health officials as a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 and over, combining “overweight” and “obese” into a single category. Different national health authorities sometimes use different BMI cut-offs to define overweight and obesity. The WHO, however, uses the definition of obesity as 30 BMI and above as a global baseline to compare different countries. In 2002, a WHO expert consultation concluded that “Asians generally have a higher percentage of body fat than white people of the same age, sex, and BMI. Also, the proportion of Asian people with risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease is substantial even below the existing WHO BMI cut-off point [for overweight]” of 25 BMI. However, the consultation noted that lowering the cut-off values by three units, to adjust for risk differences, “as seems appropriate for Hong Kong Chinese, Indonesians, and Singaporeans,” would be too much for other Asian groups, like “northern Chinese and Japanese.”The consultation concluded that the existing WHO BMI cut-off points should be retained as international classifications. Sources: “Appropriate body-mass index for Asian populations,” The Lancet, January 10, 2004, pages 157 – 162; and phone interview with Dr. Chizuru Nishida, WHO Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, Geneva, October 31, 2005.Also, see comparable WHO BMI data (sometimes reported for different years than the IOTF) at http://www3.who.int/statistics/ “morbidity” section, and in: www.unsystem.org/scn/Publications/SCNNews/Note that data listed as “measured” by health professionals is considered more accurate than “self-reported” by individuals. The IOTF figures for obesity in Japan and the U.S., for example, are “measured,” while the figures for France and Italy are “self-reported,” and the actual figures may in fact be higher.

Note for further reading:

When compared to the rest of the developed world, the latest reported Japanese adult obesity rates of approximately 3% for both men and women make obesity seem virtually non-existent or unknown by Western standards.

However, by Japanese standards, comparing data over recent decades, health authorities have identified obesity and “pre-obesity” as emerging public health problems among some key population segments, including children. For example, the prevalence of obese boys and girls between 6 and 14 years old increased from 6.1% and 7.1%, respectively, in 1976-1980, to 11.1% and 10.2% in 1996-2000. (Source: see note 1. below.) Also, the problem of “extreme thinness” (BMI < 17) increased from 2.4% in 1976–1980 to 4.2% in 1996–2000 among young women (aged 15–29 years), probably due to social pressures to keep weight down. (Source: see note 3. below.)

For specific, comprehensive data on Japanese obesity trends in different population segments based on the Japanese National Nutrition Survey, see the work of Dr. Nobuo Yoshiike, Director, Division of Health and Nutrition Monitoring, National Institute of Health and Nutrition, and his colleagues in:

1.) Trends in Childhood Obesity in Japan over the Last 25 Years from the National Nutrition Survey; Yumi Matsushita, Nobuo Yoshiike, Fumi Kaneda, Katsushi Yoshita and Hidemi Takimoto; Obesity Research 12:205-214 (2004): http://www.obesityresearch.org/cgi/content/full/12/2/205

2.) Twenty-year changes in the prevalence of overweight in Japanese adults: The National Nutrition Survey 1976–95; N. Yoshiike, F. Seino, S. Tajima, Y. Arai, M. Kawano, T. Furuhata and S. Inoue; Obesity Reviews Volume 3 Issue 3 Page 183 – August 2002: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1467-

3.) Thinness Among Young Japanese Women; Hidemi Takimoto, Nobuo Yoshiike, Fumi Kaneda, and Katsushi Yoshita; American Journal of Public Health 1592-1595 September 2004, Vol 94, No. 9: http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/94/9/1592

4.) Epidemiology of Obesity and Public Health Strategies for its Control in Japan; Nobuo Yoshiike MD, Fumi Kaneda MS and Hidemi Takimoto MD, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Volume 11 Page S727 – December 2002; Volume 11 Issue s8: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1046/

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