Waist circumference and cardiovascular risk factors in prepubertal children

C Maffeis, A Pietrobelli, A Grezzani, S Provera, L Tatò
Obesity Research 2001, 9 (3): 179-87

OBJECTIVE: Intra-abdominal fat has been identified as being the most clinically relevant type of fat in humans. Therefore, an assessment of body-fat distribution could possibly identify subjects with the highest risk of adverse lipid profile and hypertension. Few data on the relationship between body-fat distribution and cardiovascular risk factors are available in children, especially before puberty.

RESEARCH METHODS AND PROCEDURES: This cross-sectional study was undertaken to explore the relationship between anthropometric variables, lipid concentrations, and blood pressure (BP) in a sample of 818 prepubertal children (ages 3 to 11 years) and to assess the clinical relevance of waist circumference in identifying prepubertal children with higher cardiovascular risk. Height, weight, triceps and subscapular skinfolds, waist circumference, and BP were measured. Plasma levels for triacylglycerol, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), and apolipoprotein B (ApoB) were determined.

RESULTS: Females were fatter than males (5.8 [3.5] vs. 4.8 [3.3] kg of fat mass; p < 0.01). Males had higher HDL cholesterol and ApoA1/ApoB plasma concentrations than females (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01, respectively). Waist circumference had a higher correlation with systolic and diastolic BP (r = 0.40 and 0.29, respectively; p < 0.001) than triceps (r = 0.35 and 0.21, respectively; p < 0.001) and subscapular (r = 0.28 and 0.16, respectively; p < 0.001) skinfolds and relative body weight (0.33 and 0.23, respectively; p < 0.001). Multivariate linear model analysis showed that ApoA1/ApoB, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol, and systolic as well as diastolic BP were significantly associated with waist circumference and triceps and subscapular skinfolds, independently of age, gender, and body mass index.

DISCUSSION: Waist circumference as well as subscapular and triceps skinfolds may be helpful parameters in identifying prepubertal children with an adverse blood-lipids profile and hypertension. However, waist circumference, which is easy to measure and more easily reproducible than skinfolds, may be considered in clinical practice. Children with a waist circumference greater than the 90th percentile are more likely to have multiple risk factors than children with a waist circumference that is less than or equal to the 90th percentile.

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