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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Feb;25(2):279-85.

Does the BMI reflect body fat in obese children and adolescents? A study using the TOBEC method.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Vienna, Division of Neonatology, Intensive Care and Congenital Anomalies, Vienna, Austria.



Due to the fact that obesity is defined as excess of body fat mass, we tested the hypothesis whether the body mass index (BMI) can be used as a valid measure for the detection of the degree of obesity in individual obese children and adolescents.


A total of 204 obese children and adolescents (105 boys, 99 girls) aged 6-17 y, using total body electrical conductivity (TOBEC) for fat measurement, were included into this study. A multiple regression analysis was performed with percentage body fat (PBF) as dependent variable and BMI, age and sex as independent variables. First- and second-order interaction terms were also included. Since all interaction terms showed a significant influence on PBF, regression analysis was performed separately for boys and girls, dividing each group into two age subgroups (subjects younger than 10 y, and subjects 10 y or older).


BMI and PBF were observed to be positively correlated (overall: r=0,65; P=0.0001; boys r=0.63 and girls: r=0.68). Through a multiple regression analysis 57% of the variance of PBF could be explained by the independent variables. In boys younger than 10 y 73% and in girls younger than 10 y 63% of the variance of PBF was explained by the BMI. In subjects 10 y or older the association was poor (boys: 27%; girls: 38%). It should be emphasized that there is a wide range in the relationship between PBF and BMI in the obese subjects.


From these results we conclude that BMI might be a useful parameter for epidemiological studies: however in the individual pediatric patient, especially from 10 y onwards, it gives only a limited insight to the degree of obesity based on the definition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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