Adult NZ Chinese comparative study of body composition measured by DEXA

Wen, Jewel Ji Yang
Rush, Elaine
Zinn, Caryn
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Body fat, regional body fat and bone mineral mass, are linked to health conditions such as obesity and osteoporosis. The ethnic comparison of body composition may help to explain and understand the difference of health outcomes and health status in different ethnic groups. NZ Chinese is the largest Asian group in New Zealand, however, knowledge about health risks and body composition for NZ Chinese is very limited. Therefore, the aims of this thesis were: 1) To compare the relationships between body mass index (BMI) and percentage body fat (%BF) of European (M29, F37), Maori (M23, F23), Pacific people (M15, F23), and Asian Indian (M29, F25) (existing data) with NZ Chinese aged 30-39 years; 2) To compare fat distribution, appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ApSM), bone mineral density (BMD) and limb bone lengths across these five ethnic groups.

A convenience sample of healthy NZ Chinese (M20, F23) was selected by BMI to cover a wide range of body fatness. Total and regional body fat, fat free mass (FFM) and bone mineral content were measured by whole-body Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The main study findings were: • For a fixed BMI, NZ Chinese had a higher %BF than European and less %BF than Asian Indian. At a %BF equivalent to a BMI of 30 kg.m-2 in Europeans (WHO threshold for obesity), BMI values for Asian Indian and NZ Chinese women were 5.8 and 2.2 BMI units lower than European, respectively, and for Asian Indian and NZ Chinese men, 8.2 and 3.0 BMI units lower. • Abdominal-to-thigh fat ratio of NZ Chinese was significantly higher than that of European (P<0.001) and similar to that of Asian Indian. NZ Chinese had a significantly higher central-to-appendicular fat ratio than both Asian Indian and European (P<0.001). NZ Chinese was centrally fatter than European and Asian Indian. • For the same height and weight, NZ Chinese had significantly less FFM (-2.1 kg, P=0.039) and ApSM (-1.4kg, P=0.007) than European. NZ Chinese had significantly more FFM (+3.2 kg, P=0.001) than Asian Indian and similar ApSM to Asian Indian. • For the same weight, NZ Chinese had a similar BMD as European for female and male. NZ Chinese male had a higher BMD (+0.07, P= 0.001) than Asian Indian male. • Among the five ethnic groups, NZ Chinese had the shortest leg (-1.5cm, P=0.016) and arm bone lengths (-2.3cm, P=0.001) (measured by DEXA) for the same DEXA height.

Therefore, the relationship between percent body fat and BMI for Asian Indian and NZ Chinese differs from Europeans and from each other, which indicates that different BMI thresholds for obesity may be required for these Asian ethnic groups. Given the relatively high percentage body fat, low appendicular skeletal muscle mass and high central fat to appendicular fat ratio of NZ Chinese aged 30-39 years demonstrated in this study, promotion of healthy eating and physical activity is needed to be tailored for NZ Chinese. The NZ Chinese community should be advised to keep fit, prevent limited movements in older age, and to prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases.

Chinese , Body composition , DEXA , BMI , Body fat , Ethnic comparison
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