Canadian Obesity Network-Ethnicity Determines Risks from Obesity: Study

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Aug. 22, 2007) – Canadian researchers have verified that ethnic heritage determines where the body stores fat, meaning some ethnicities, particularly those of Chinese or South Asian descent, face higher risks for diseases related to obesity.

Dr. Scott Lear, Assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University and Canadian Obesity Network Investigator led the team that discovered Chinese and South Asians have more dangerous abdominal fat than Europeans, putting them at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other complications.As well, Lear’s research suggests current measuring techniques for healthy body fat are not as accurate when used in those ethnic populations, leading to difficulty in diagnosis and treatment.

“We now have definitive proof that current targets for waist circumference and body mass index measurements used by physicians, which were developed based on Caucasian populations, are not able to accurately determine health risks in these groups,” Lear explains. “Clearly, we can no longer use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to diagnosing these serious medical conditions.”

The study, recently published in the high-profile American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared the amount and distribution of abdominal fat, as well as total body fat mass and lifestyle factors, in more than 800 healthy Chinese, South Asian, Aboriginal and European participants. The project was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute for Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.

Lear, a member of the Canadian Obesity Network, says that new guidelines are urgently needed to properly screen these groups.

“Canada’s population is increasing, and many of our new immigrants are coming from China and South Asia. We need to be able to identify risks at an early stage, or we will see increased healthcare costs and mortality in the future.”

The Canadian Obesity Network is funded by the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence Program (, a joint initiative of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Industry Canada.

For more information, please contact

(Or to schedule interviews)
The Canadian Obesity Network
Dr. Scott Lear
(604) 682-2344, ext. 62778 (Mon, Thu, Fri)
or (778) 782-7916 (Tue, Wed)

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