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Abstract Background No large-scale studies have compared associations between body composition and cardiovascular risk factors across multi-ethnic populations. Methods Population-based surveys included 30,721 Malay, 10,865 Indian and 25,296 Chinese adults from The Malaysian Cohort, and 413,737 White adults from UK Biobank. Sex-specific linear regression models estimated associations of anthropometry and body composition (body mass index [BMI], waist circumference [WC], fat mass, appendicular lean mass) with systolic blood pressure (SBP), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), triglycerides and HbA1c. Results Compared to Malay and Indian participants, Chinese adults had lower BMI and fat mass while White participants were taller with more appendicular lean mass. For BMI and fat mass, positive associations with SBP and HbA1c were strongest among the Chinese and Malay and weaker in White participants. Associations with triglycerides were considerably weaker in those of Indian ethnicity (eg 0.09 [0.02] mmol/L per 5 kg/m2 BMI in men, vs 0.38 [0.02] in Chinese). For appendicular lean mass, there were weak associations among men; but stronger positive associations with SBP, triglycerides, and HbA1c, and inverse associations with LDL-C, among Malay and Indian women. Associations between WC and risk factors were generally strongest in Chinese and weakest in Indian ethnicities, although this pattern was reversed for HbA1c. Conclusion There were distinct patterns of adiposity and body composition and cardiovascular risk factors across ethnic groups. We need to better understand the mechanisms relating body composition with cardiovascular risk to attenuate the increasing global burden of obesity-related disease.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Obesity


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Date