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February 12th, 2014

Obesity and dyslipidemia in South Asians.

Misra A, Shrivastava U.

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Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology, B-16, Chirag Enclave, New Delhi 110048, India.


Obesity and dyslipidemia are emerging as major public health challenges in South Asian countries. The prevalence of obesity is more in urban areas than rural, and women are more affected than men. Further, obesity in childhood and adolescents is rising rapidly. Obesity in South Asians has characteristic features: high prevalence of abdominal obesity, with more intra-abdominal and truncal subcutaneous adiposity than white Caucasians. In addition, there is greater accumulation of fat at "ectopic" sites, namely the liver and skeletal muscles. All these features lead to higher magnitude of insulin resistance, and its concomitant metabolic disorders (the metabolic syndrome) including atherogenic dyslipidemia. Because of the occurrence of type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia and other cardiovascular morbidities at a lower range of body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC), it is proposed that cut-offs for both measures of obesity should be lower (BMI 23-24.9 kg/m(2) for overweight and ≥ 25 kg/m(2) for obesity, WC ≥ 80 cm for women and ≥ 90 cm for men for abdominal obesity) for South Asians, and a consensus guideline for these revised measures has been developed for Asian Indians. Increasing obesity and dyslipidemia in South Asians is primarily driven by nutrition, lifestyle and demographic transitions, increasingly faulty diets and physical inactivity, in the background of genetic predisposition. Dietary guidelines for prevention of obesity and diabetes, and physical activity guidelines for Asian Indians are now available. Intervention programs with emphasis on improving knowledge, attitude and practices regarding healthy nutrition, physical activity and stress management need to be implemented. Evidence for successful intervention program for prevention of childhood obesity and for prevention of diabetes is available for Asian Indians, and could be applied to all South Asian countries with similar cultural and lifestyle profiles. Finally, more research on pathophysiology, guidelines for cut-offs, and culturally-specific lifestyle management of obesity, dyslipidemia and the metabolic syndrome are needed for South Asians.