Researchers in Singapore conducted a study to determine the optimal body mass index (BMI) range in relation to risk of death among Asians. The 51,250 study participants were middle-aged or older (age 45-74 years) men and women of Chinese decent living in Singapore.

The risk of death was higher among those who were either underweight (BMI of 18.5 or under) or obese (BMI of 27.5 or above). Regardless of age or BMI, smoking considerably increased the rate of mortality and modified the association between BMI and death. The most favorable range of BMI for mortality rates and risk in non-smoking persons younger than age 65 years was 18.5–21.4, and for non-smoking persons age 65 and older was 21.5–24.4.

“Our findings contribute to the science behind public health considerations on the appropriate and optimal range of relative weight in some Asian populations where a higher proportion of BMI values fall in a lower range compared to Western populations,” the study concluded.

1. Odegaard AO, Pereira MA, Koh W-P, et al. BMI, all-cause and cause-specific mortality in Chinese Singaporean men and women: the Singapore Chinese Health Study. PLoS ONE 5(11): e14000. (open access)