Body Composition in a Multiethnic Community in New Zealand

  • Elaine Rush


This chapter summarizes evidence of ethnic differences in body composition from a ­multiethnic community in Auckland, New Zealand. The people measured were apparently healthy, aged 18–82 years and selected for a range of body mass index (BMI) within each age group. Because the measurement of body composition was by a single dual xray absorptiometry (DXA) machine, strong evidence has been provided for ethnic differences in the relationship between BMI and percentage body fat. Furthermore there are marked differences in both men and women by ethnicity of regional fat distribution, leg length and appendicular skeletal muscle mass. The ethnic comparison is limited by the absence of concurrent measurements of chronic disease risk associated with BMI and fat distribution, however national health surveys clearly demonstrate that South Asian, Pacific and Maori have a higher prevalence of risk than European. The relationship is confounded by the concurrent evidence that lower socioeconomic status is associated with increased obesity and risk. Within an ethnicity, and by sex, risk increases with body weight for height, BMI. BMI may help inform international comparisons and public health action points within a population. BMI should not be used as an arbitrary cutoff point to label a person; ethnic origin should also be considered and further tests administered. Further evidence is provided from longitudinal studies that within an ethnicity, weight for height tracks from birth, throughout childhood and into adulthood, providing support for the developmental origins of health and disease and the importance of early intervention.


Obesity Migration Income Crest 
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Appendicular skeletal muscle mass


Bone mineral content


Body mass index


Dual energy xray absorptiometry


Fat mass


Fat free mass


Percent body fat


World Health Organisation



Participants, Sarah Bristow, Associate Professor Lindsay Plank and Dr Janet Rowan.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, School of Sport and RecreationAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand

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