A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia, the Menzies Research Institute in Hobart, Australia and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia has found that waist circumference is a better indicator of a child`s risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes later in life, as compared to BMI.
They found that children with high waist circumference values (in the top 25 percent for their age and sex) were five to six times more likely than children with low waist circumferences (in the bottom 25 percent) to develop metabolic syndrome by early adulthood.
Michael Schmidt, an assistant professor in the UGA department of kinesiology, part of the College of Education said the findings should help clinicians measuring body composition identify children most at risk for future health problems in a simple and cost effective manner.
While useful, BMI doesn`t distinguish between fat and non-fat weight or indicate where the fat is located.
In contrast, waist circumference measurements capture the amount of fat located centrally in the body, a location that prior studies have shown to be particularly detrimental to cardio-metabolic health.
"This likely explains the stronger associations we observed between waist circumference and adult metabolic syndrome," added Schmidt.
While Schmidt recognizes that introducing waist circumference measurement in schools is controversial because of potential stigmatization, he said he feels it provides an opportunity for the early identification of children at higher risk for future health problems due to excess body fat.
"I think parents would want to know if their child was five to six times more likely to have early cardio-metabolic health problems," said Schmidt.
"We can expect that the children of today will have higher rates of diabetes and early cardiovascular disease and that these problems will begin earlier in life."
The results appear in the early online edition of the International Journal of Obesity.