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Obesity and hypertension in an Iranian cohort study; Iranian women experience higher rates of obesity and hypertension than American women

Hossein Bahrami12, Mohsen Sadatsafavi13, Akram Pourshams1, Farin Kamangar4, Mehdi Nouraei1, Shahriar Semnani5, Paul Brennan6, Paolo Boffetta6 and Reza Malekzadeh1*

Author Affiliations

1 Digestive Disease Research Center (DDRC), Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Departments of Epidemiology and Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Schools of Public Health and Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

3 Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

4 National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Health (NIH), Bethesda, USA

5 Department of Internal Medicine, Golestan University of Medical Sciences, Gorgan, Iran

6 International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:158  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-158

Published: 20 June 2006



Once considered as the main public health problem in developed countries, obesity has become a major problem throughout the world and developing countries, like Iran, are joining the global obesity pandemic. We determined the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and hypertension in a large cohort of Iranians and compared age-adjusted rates with the rates in the US.


Golestan Cohort Study is a population-based study of 8,998 men and women, aged 35-81 years, from urban and rural areas. Anthropometric parameters were measured by interviewers. Prevalence rates were directly adjusted to the 2000 United States standard population.


The age-adjusted prevalence rates of overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) in this Iranian population were 62.2% and 28.0%, respectively. Both overweight and obesity were more common in women than men. Age-adjusted prevalence of overweight was significantly higher in Iranian women compared to the American women (68.6% vs. 61.6%), while the age-adjusted prevalence of obesity is closer in these two populations (34.9% vs. 33.2%). Iranian men—compared to American men—had significantly lower age-adjusted prevalence of overweight (53.7% vs. 68.8%) and obesity (16.2% vs. 27.5%). Age-adjusted prevalence of hypertension was higher in Iranian women than American women (35.7% vs. 30.5%). Diabetes mellitus was reported in 6.2% of participants. Mean waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) among women was 0.96. Smoking rates in men and women were 33.2% and 2.2%, respectively.


The prevalence of obesity, overweight, and hypertension in Iran is as high as the US. However, Iranian women are more obese than American women and Iranian men are less obese than their American counterparts. This discrepancy might be due to the low rate of smoking among Iranian women. Iranian women have higher mean WHR than what WHO has defined in 19 other populations.