Prevalence of abdominal obesity in Spanish children and adolescents. Do we need waist circumference measurements in pediatric practice?

Helmut Schröder, Lourdes Ribas, Corinna Koebnick, Anna Funtikova, Santiago F Gomez, Montserat Fíto, Carmen Perez-Rodrigo, Lluis Serra-Majem
PloS One 2014, 9 (1): e87549

BACKGROUND: Evidence indicates that central adiposity has increased to a higher degree than general adiposity in children and adolescents in recent decades. However, waist circumference is not a routine measurement in clinical practice.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of abdominal obesity based on waist circumferences (WC) and waist to height ratio (WHtR) in Spanish children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years. Further, the prevalence of abdominal obesity (AO) among normal and overweight individuals was analyzed.

DESIGN: Data were obtained from a study conducted from 1998 to 2000 in a representative national sample of 1521 children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years (50.0% female) in Spain. WC and WHtR measurements were obtained in addition to BMI. AO was defined as WHtR ≥0.50 (WHtR-AO), sex and age specific WC≥90(th) percentile (WC-AO1), and sex and age specific WC cut-off values associated with high trunk fat measured by by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (WC-AO2).

RESULTS: IOTF- based overweight and obsity prevalence was 21.5% and 6.6% in children and 17.4% and 5.2% in adolescents, respectively. Abdominal obesity (AO) was defined as WHtR≥0.50 (WHtR-AO), sex- and age-specific WC≥90th percentile (WC-AO1), and sex- and age-specific WC cut-off values associated with high trunk fat measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (WC-AO2). The respective prevalence of WHtR-AO, WC-AO1, and WC-AO2 was 21.3% (24.6% boys; 17.9% girls), 9.4% (9.1% boys; 9.7% girls), and 26.8% (30.6% boys;22.9% girls) in children and 14.3% (20.0% boys; 8.7% girls), 9.6% (9.8% boys; 9.5% girls), and 21.1% (28.8% boys; 13.7% girls) in adolescents.

CONCLUSION: The prevalence of AO in Spanish children and adolescents is of concern. The high proportion of AO observed in young patients who are normal weight or overweight indicates a need to include waist circumference measurements in routine clinical practice.

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