Are the Recent Secular Increases in Waist Circumference among Children and Adolescents Independent of Changes in BMI?
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Are the Recent Secular Increases in Waist Circumference among Children and Adolescents Independent of Changes in BMI?

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  • Alternative Title:
    PLoS One
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    Several studies have shown that the waist circumference of children and adolescents has increased over the last 25 years. However, given the strong correlation between waist circumference and BMI, it is uncertain if the secular trends in waist circumference are independent of those in BMI.


    We analyzed data from 6- to 19-year-olds who participated in the 1988–1994 through 2011–2012 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to assess whether the trends in waist circumference were independent of changes in BMI, race-ethnicity and age.


    Mean, unadjusted levels of waist circumference increased by 3.7 cm (boys) and 6.0 cm (girls) from 1988–94 through 2011–12, while mean BMI levels increased by 1.1 kg/m2 (boys) and 1.6 kg/m2 (girls). Overall, the proportional changes in mean levels of both waist circumference and BMI were fairly similar among boys (5.3%, waist vs. 5.6%, BMI) and girls (8.7%, waist vs. 7.7%, BMI). As assessed by the area under the curve, adjustment for BMI reduced the secular increases in waist circumference by about 75% (boys) and 50% (girls) beyond that attributable to age and race-ethnicity. There was also a race-ethnicity interaction (p < 0.001). Adjustment for BMI reduced the secular trend in waist circumference among non-Hispanic (NH) black children (boys and girls) to a greater extent (about 90%) than among other children.


    Our results indicate that among children in the U.S., about 75% (boys) and 50% (girls) of the secular increases in waist circumference since 1988–94 can be accounted for by changes in BMI. The reasons for the larger independent effects among girls and among NH blacks are uncertain.

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