Gender-ethnic disparity in BMI and waist circumference distribution shifts in US adults

May A. Beydoun, Youfa Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While obesity has been increasing in the United States, little is known about the variation in recent BMI and waist circumference (WC) distribution shifts across socio-demographic groups. We assessed shifts in BMI and WC distributions and compared between-group differences over the past decade, and projected future BMI and WC distributions and prevalence of obesity and central obesity using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1988-1994 and 1999-2004 data. BMI/WC distributional shifts overall and in percentiles were compared across groups. Average yearly shift was calculated and used for projecting future distributions and prevalence. Both BMI and WC increased more in their uppermost percentile distribution, though BMI shift declined toward the uppermost percentiles among women. Heavier Americans gained more adiposity over the past decade. Ethnic (non-Hispanic (NH) white vs. black) disparities in mean BMI and WC became wider. Over the survey period, mean BMI increased by 1.3 units vs. 1.8 units among men and women, whereas WC, by 4.2 cm vs. 4.8 cm. Young adults had the largest increase. Shift in women's WC was stable between the 25th and 75th percentiles, but gained pace at higher WC, while women's BMI and men's BMI and WC shifts increased linearly. NH black women had the largest shifts and would have central obesity and obesity prevalence of 90.8 and 70.7% by 2020. Shifts in BMI and WC distribution varied across age-, gender-, and ethnic groups. Future rise in the obesity and central obesity prevalence rates are expected, but would vary by demographic groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-176
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 23 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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