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Secular trends for skinfolds differ from those for BMI and waist circumference among adults examined in NHANES from 1988–1994 through 2009–20101,2,3
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  • Alternative Title:
    Am J Clin Nutr
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    Background Although the prevalence of a body mass index [BMI (in kg/m2)] ≥30 has tripled among US adults since the 1960s, BMI is only moderately correlated with body fatness. Because skinfolds can more accurately estimate body fatness than can BMI, it is possible that skinfolds could be useful in monitoring secular trends in body fatness. Objective We examined whether there were similar secular trends for skinfolds (triceps and subscapular), BMI, and waist circumference between US adults. Design This study was an analysis of 45,754 adults who participated in the NHANES from 1988–1994 through 2009–2010. Approximately 19% of the subjects were missing ≥1 skinfold-thickness measurement. These missing values were imputed from other characteristics. Results Trends in mean levels and in the prevalence of high levels of the 4 body size measures were fairly similar between men, with mean levels increasing by ≥5% from 1988–1994 through 2009–2010. Slightly larger increases were seen in women for BMI and waist circumference (7–8%), but trends in skinfolds were markedly different. The mean triceps skinfold, for example, increased by 2 mm through 2003–2004, but subsequently decreased so that the mean in 2009–2010 did not differ from that in 1988–1994. Compared with obese women in 1988–1994, the mean BMI of obese women in 2009–2010 was 1 higher, but mean levels of both skin-folds were 5–10% lower. Conclusions Although there were fairly similar trends in levels of BMI, waist circumference, and skinfold thicknesses in men in the United States from 1988–1994 through 2009–2010, there were substantial differences in women. Our results indicate that it is unlikely that skinfold thicknesses could be used to monitor trends in obesity.
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