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J Pediatr. 2009 Sep;155(3):S6.e15-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.04.051.

Growth curves for cardio-metabolic risk factors in children and adolescents.

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Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics, and Strong Children's Research Center, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY 14642-3917, USA.



This study developed percentile curves for anthropometric (waist circumference) and cardiovascular (lipid profile) risk factors for US children and adolescents.


A representative sample of US children and adolescents from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994 (NHANES III) and the current national series (NHANES 1999-2006) were combined. Percentile curves were constructed, nationally weighted, and smoothed using the Lambda, Mu, and Sigma method. The percentile curves included age- and sex-specific percentile values that correspond with and transition into the adult abnormal cut-off values for each of these anthropometric and cardiovascular components. To increase the sample size, a second series of percentile curves was also created from the combination of the 2 NHANES databases, along with cross-sectional data from the Bogalusa Heart Study, the Muscatine Study, the Fels Longitudinal Study and the Princeton Lipid Research Clinics Study.


These analyses resulted in a series of growth curves for waist circumference, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol from a combination of pediatric data sets. The cut-off for abnormal waist circumference in adult males (102 cm) was equivalent to the 94(th) percentile line in 18-year-olds, and the cut-off in adult females (88 cm) was equivalent to the 84(th) percentile line in 18-year-olds. Triglycerides were found to have a bimodal pattern among females, with an initial peak at age 11 and a second at age 20; the curve for males increased steadily with age. The HDL curve for females was relatively flat, but the male curve declined starting at age 9 years. Similar curves for total and LDL cholesterol were constructed for both males and females. When data from the additional child studies were added to the national data, there was little difference in their patterns or rates of change from year to year.


These curves represent waist and lipid percentiles for US children and adolescents, with identification of values that transition to adult abnormalities. They could be used conditionally for both epidemiological and possibly clinical applications, although they need to be validated against longitudinal data.

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