Ethnic group differences in waist circumference percentiles among U.S. children and adolescents: Estimates from the 1999-2008 national health and nutrition examination surveys

Sarah E. Messiah, Kristopher L. Arheart, Steven E. Lipshultz, Tracie L. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


Background: Waist circumference (WC) may be a better predictor of cardiovascular disease risk than body mass index (BMI). We provide the most current WC percentile estimates for the U.S. Mexican-American (MA), non-Hispanic black (NHB), and non-Hispanic white (NHW) pediatric populations. Methods: Percentile regression analyses were used to estimate the 10 th, 25 th, 50 th, 75 th, and 90 th percentiles of the distribution of WC for boys (n=8,351) and girls (n=8,054) for ages 2-18 by ethnicity using the combined 1999-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Results: MA boys were over 2.5 times as likely versus NHB [odds ratio (OR)=2.60, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.73-2.52] and almost twice as likely versus NHW (OR=1.86, 95% CI 1.73-2.52) to have a WC above the 90 th percentile. NHB (89.1cm) and MA (88.8cm) girls ages 11 and older and NHW girls (88.7cm) ages 12 and older who had a WC at or above the 90 th percentile meet adult WC criteria for the metabolic syndrome (88cm). MA boys (105.1cm) ages 14 and older, and NHB (105.1cm) and NHW boys (105.0cm) ages 16 and older that had a WC at or above the 90 th percentile meet adult WC criteria for the metabolic syndrome (102cm). Conclusions: WC is a simple, inexpensive measure that can identify children at risk for cardiometabolic disease. A large proportion of U.S. adolescents with elevated WC, and prepubescent girls in particular, currently meet adult cutoff criteria for WC as a component of the metabolic syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-303
Number of pages7
JournalMetabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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