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NICE issues warning over 'healthy' BMI levels

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Eight million people in the UK are at high risk of heart disease and diabetes even though they have a “healthy” body mass index (BMI), experts have said.

In a briefing to local authorities that plan health campaigns, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said people of African, Caribbean and Asian descent are up to six times more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

It said a lower BMI of 23 - typically classed as in the “healthy” range of 18 to 25 - must be used as a trigger for action in helping those from these backgrounds avoid ill health.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health at NICE, said: “Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke are potentially life-threatening conditions, which people of African, Caribbean and Asian descent and other minority ethnicities are significantly more likely to develop than the wider population.

“So it’s vital that local authorities are supported in taking action to prevent these illnesses in people who have a high risk of developing them.

“Not only are people from these ethnic backgrounds up to six times more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they are 50% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, and they also suffer from these conditions at a younger age.

“This briefing recommends that a BMI of 23 should be the threshold to trigger action to prevent these chronic conditions in people of African, Caribbean and Asian descent and other minority ethnicities, as these individuals are at an increased risk at what is normally considered a healthy weight.

“In our diverse population, it’s essential that decision makers, practitioners and individuals are aware of this difference, as it’s lower than the 25 BMI value routinely used to signal an increased risk of chronic illness.”

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