Waist-to-height ratio, waist circumference and BMI as indicators of percentage fat mass and cardiometabolic risk factors in children aged 3-7 years

Anna Sijtsma, Gianni Bocca, Carianne L'abée, Eryn T Liem, Pieter J J Sauer, Eva Corpeleijn
Clinical Nutrition 2014, 33 (2): 311-5

OBJECTIVE: To assess whether waist-to-height-ratio (WHtR) is a better estimate of body fat percentage (BF%) and a better indicator of cardiometabolic risk factors than BMI or waist circumference (WC) in young children.

METHODS: WHtR, WC and BMI were measured by trained staff according to standardized procedures. (2)H2O and (2)H2(18)O isotope dilution were used to assess BF% in 61 children (3-7 years) from the general population, and bioelectrical impedance (Horlick equation) was used to assess BF% in 75 overweight/obese children (3-5 years). Cardiometabolic risk factors, including diastolic and systolic blood pressure, HOMA2-IR, leptin, adiponectin, triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL- and LDL-cholesterol, TNFα and IL-6 were determined in the overweight/obese children.

RESULTS: In the children from the general population, after adjustments for age and gender, BMI had the highest explained variance for BF% compared to WC and WHtR (R(2) = 0.32, 0.31 and 0.23, respectively). In the overweight/obese children, BMI and WC had a higher explained variance for BF% compared to WHtR (R(2) = 0.68, 0.70 and 0.50, respectively). In the overweight/obese children, WHtR, WC and BMI were all significantly positively correlated with systolic blood pressure (r = 0.23, 0.30, 0.36, respectively), HOMA2-IR (r = 0.53, 0.62, 0.63, respectively), leptin (r = 0.70, 0.77, 0.78, respectively) and triglycerides (r = 0.33, 0.36, 0.24, respectively), but not consistently with other parameters.

CONCLUSION: In young children, WHtR is not superior to WC or BMI in estimating BF%, nor is WHtR better correlated with cardiometabolic risk factors than WC or BMI in overweight/obese children. These data do not support the use of WHtR in young children.

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