It seems paradoxical to describe someone as thin-obese, but it is scientifically and diagnostically correct.


Obesity is a measure of excess adipose tissue (fat) not a number on a scale. The global metric that is generally used for a diagnosis of obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a very blunt instrument and cannot accurately discern between adipose tissue and lean muscle mass or bone density. Therefore millions of people throughout the world are both thin and obese at the same time. Since they appear thin and have “healthy” BMIs, their obesity and risks correlated with obesity can go undetected.

This is a common paradox in India and likely a reason that many people that are at risk for Type II diabetes remain undiagnosed. Early diagnosis can allow for preventive care. Until recently India had more citizens with diabetes than any other nation…today it is only surpassed by China.


Researcher from both India and the UK studied newborn baby’s size and body measures. The babies in India were then and compared to newborn babies in the UK. Although the Indian babies weighed less (average 2.7 kg) than the UK babies (average 3.5 kg) their estimated fat mass was higher and muscle mass lower.

The researchers summarized that genetic predispositions seemingly influence body composition and contribute to the Indian thin-obese paradox and may originate in utero and foster the development of diabetes.



The good news is that genetic predispositions are not necessarily destinies since the same researchers demonstrated that a mother’s nutrition before and during pregnancy plays an important role in the baby’s body composition. The way a mother nurtures herself may very well influence the nature of her child. . .Nature via Nurture.

Read full study: Neonatal anthropometry: the thin–fat Indian baby. The Pune Maternal Nutrition Study

Read full study: Appropriate body-mass index for Asian populations and its implications for policy and intervention strategies