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Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):970-5.

Obesity and risk factors for the metabolic syndrome among low-income, urban, African American schoolchildren: the rule rather than the exception?

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  • 1Department of Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA. braunsch@uic.edu



Adult obesity is associated with the metabolic syndrome; however, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among young children has not been reported. Clinic-based screening efforts for the metabolic syndrome in low-income neighborhoods, where obesity is prevalent, are limited by minimal health insurance coverage and inadequate access to health care. School-based obesity screening programs may effectively target high-risk populations.


The objective was to describe the prevalence of overweight and features of the metabolic syndrome (defined as the presence of > or =3 of the following risk factors: HDL < or = 40 mg/dL, triacylglycerol > or = 110 mg/dL, and blood pressure or waist circumference at or above the 90th percentile) in a pilot, school-based screening program.


A cross-sectional study of obesity and the metabolic syndrome was conducted in third- to sixth-grade, low-income, urban, African American children. Lipid and glucose concentrations were measured in fasting capillary finger-stick samples.


Age- and sex-specific BMI percentiles were assessed in 385 students, 90 of whom were full participants in this study (participants) and 295 of whom had only height and weight measurements taken (other students). Risk factors of the metabolic syndrome were assessed in the 90 participants (23%). No significant differences in BMI percentiles were found between the participants and the other students. Overall, 44% of the participants had BMIs at or above the 85th percentile, and 59% had an elevated BMI or one metabolic syndrome risk factor. The metabolic syndrome was present in 5.6% of all participants, in 13.8% of participants with BMIs at or above the 95th percentile, and in 0% of participants with BMIs below the 95th percentile.


Most of the African American children attending 2 urban schools in low-income neighborhoods were overweight or had one or more risk factors for the metabolic syndrome. School-based screening programs in high-risk populations may provide an efficient venue for the screening of obesity and related risk factors.

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