Objective To assess the use of mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) for identification of overweight and overfatness in rural South African children and adolescents.
Methods Anthropometric data (weight, height, MUAC and % body fat) from a cross-sectional sample of 978 black South African 5–14-year-olds were analysed. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis determined the validity of MUAC as a proxy for determining overweight and overfatness.
Findings Area under the curve (AUC) results were generally high. Boys and girls aged 10–14 years had ROC-AUC for overfatness classed as ‘excellent’, 0.97 and 0.98 respectively. Cut-points in the MUAC distribution which optimised the ROC-AUC for identification of overfatness and obesity were determined for boys and girls aged 5–9 and 10–14 years, and had high sensitivity and specificity.
Conclusions MUAC may have potential for clinical and surveillance applications as an accurate yet simple and widely available indicator of overweight and overfatness in children and adolescents in resource-poor settings.
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