March 23, 2006

Waist Girth Predicts Diabetes Risk in Children

By Will Boggs, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Waist circumference in children and adolescents predicts insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes, and this is independent of body mass index (BMI), a height to weight ratio used to determine how thin or fat an individual is, according to a report in the Journal of Pediatrics.

"Abdominal obesity is a health risk even though the BMI may not be very high," Dr. Silva A. Arslanian from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh told Reuters Health. "Physicians should be aware of this and discuss it with their patients and educate them."

Arslanian and colleagues investigated how well waist circumference reflects total fat, superficial abdominal fat (subcutaneous fat) and fat surrounding internal organs (visceral fat) in youths, and whether waist circumference alone predicts insulin resistance.

The researchers found that waist circumference was an independent predictor of total body fat tissue, total abdominal fat tissue, visceral fat tissue and abdominal subcutaneous fat tissue, the authors report. Waist circumference was marginally, but consistently, better at predicting these conditions than was the combination of waist circumference and BMI.

The results indicate that the influence of high BMI on total and abdominal fat and metabolic profiles are controlled through central obesity, measured by waist circumference. The findings also suggest that waist circumference alone predicts total and abdominal fat and metabolic risk factors, the authors conclude.

Waist circumference may be especially useful, Arslanian added, because it requires only one measurement, whereas BMI requires weight and height measurements plus a calculation.

SOURCE: Journal of Pediatrics, February 2006.