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The Body Mass Index of Chinese Adults in the 1980s


Ge, Keyou; Weisell, Robert; Guo, Xuguang; Cheng, Lie; Ma, Haijing; Zhai, Fengying; & Popkin, Barry M. (1994). The Body Mass Index of Chinese Adults in the 1980s. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 48(Suppl. 3), S148-154.


Patterns and trends in the body composition of Chinese adults are studied with data from the 1982 China Nationwide Nutrition Survey (CNS-82) and the 1989 China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS-89). The CNS-82 showed rural inhabitants were approximately 3 kg lighter than urban residents and approximately 2.2 cm shorter. Males were heavier (55.2 +/- 7.4 vs 50.7 +/- 8.0 kg) and taller (165.3 +/- 7.3 and 153.5 +/- 6.3 cm). Using a cut-off for underweight of a body mass index (BMI: kg/m2) < 18.5 and for obesity of > 25, 11.6% and 12.9% of the urban and rural sample were underweight and 9.8% and 6.9% respectively were overweight. The CHNS-89 surveyed 5138 adults aged 20-45 in eight selected provinces. The proportion of underweight in both urban and rural samples declined slightly (approximately 1.3%) but the proportion of obesity increased considerably (4.8% for the urban sample and 2% for the rural one). Increased income was significantly associated with reduced low body mass index (BMI: kg/m2) in the urban sample while, for the rural and overall samples, the opposite was found for obesity. Provincial patterns in energy intake were not associated with the distribution of BMI while occupation was. In particular, government officials and housewives were much more likely to be obese as also were subpopulation groups consuming greater proportions of energy from animal sources. Over 80% of the population fell in the normal BMI range (18.5-25). This may relate to the relatively even distribution of food in China during the past several decades.

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition


Ge, Keyou
Weisell, Robert
Guo, Xuguang
Cheng, Lie
Ma, Haijing
Zhai, Fengying
Popkin, Barry M.