Differences in body composition between Singapore Chinese, Beijing Chinese and Dutch children

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Mar;57(3):405-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601569.


Objectives: To compare the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage (BF%) in children of different ethnic background.

Design: Cross-sectional observational study.

Settings: The study was performed in three different locations, Singapore, Beijing and Wageningen (The Netherlands).

Subjects: In each centre 25 boys and 25 girls, aged 7-12 y, were selected. They were matched on age, sex and body height.

Methods: Body weight and body height was measured following standardized procedures. The body mass index (BMI) was calculated as weight/height squared (kg/m(2)). Body fat was measured by densitometry in Beijing and Wageningen and by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in Singapore. The DXA measurements in Singapore were validated against densitometry.

Results: There were no significant differences in BF% or BMI within each gender group across the three study sites. However, after controlling for (non-significant) differences in age and BF%, the Singapore children had a lower (mean+/-s.e.) BMI (15.6+/-0.3) than the Beijing 17.6+/-0.3) and Wageningen (16.9+/-0.3) children. For the same BMI, age and sex the Singapore children had a significant higher BF% (24.6+/-0.7) than the Beijing (19.2+/-0.8) and Wageningen (20.3+/-0.7) children.

Conclusions: The study strongly suggests that the relationship between BF% and BMI (or weight and height) is different among children of different ethnic background. Consequently growth charts and BMI cut-off points for underweight, overweight and obesity in children may have to be ethnic-specific.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Asian People*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / ethnology*
  • China
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Densitometry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Singapore
  • White People*