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Is mid-upper arm circumference in Dutch children useful in identifying obesity?

Abstract

Background Mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) is suggested as being a valid measure in detecting overweight/obesity in children and adolescents, due to the strong relation with weight. We examined this relation and compared MUAC to body mass index (BMI) according to the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) in children.

Methods Anthropometric data including MUAC were collected in 2009 by trained healthcare professionals in the context of the fifth Dutch Nationwide Growth Study, in a sample of 6167 children (2891 boys and 3276 girls) aged 2–18 years of Dutch origin. We propose MUAC SDS cut-off values for overweight and obesity, and compared MUAC with BMI IOTF in sex-specific and age-specific categories (2–5, 6–11, 12–18 years).

Results The area under the curve is used as a measure of diagnostic accuracy; the explained variance (R²) is good to excellent (0.88–0.94). Sensitivity ranges from 51.8% to 95.3% and specificity from 71.4% to 93.8%. Across age and gender groups, 65.1% to 89.0% participants are classified by both MUAC and BMI as normal weight, overweight or obese. We constructed three equations to predict weight using MUAC, with small differences between observed and predicted weight with an explained variance ranging from 0.88 to 0.94.

Conclusions Compared with BMI, MUAC is a valid measure for detecting overweight and obesity and thus a good alternative for BMI. When weight has to be estimated, it can be accurately predicted using MUAC. Based on our observations, we recommend developing diagrams with international (IOTF) cut-offs for MUAC SDS similar to BMI.

  • comm child health
  • epidemiology
  • health services research
  • obesity
  • adolescent health
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