Utility of childhood BMI in the prediction of adulthood disease: comparison of national and international references

Obes Res. 2005 Jun;13(6):1106-15. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.129.


Objective: To determine whether the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; CDC Reference) or International Obesity Task Force (IOTF; IOTF Reference) BMI cut-off points for classifying adiposity status in children are more effective at predicting future health risk.

Research methods and procedures: The sample (N=1709) included 4- to 15-year-old (at baseline) boys and girls from the Bogalusa Heart Study. Overweight and obesity status were determined using both the CDC Reference and IOTF Reference BMI cut-off points at baseline. The ability of childhood overweight and obesity, determined from the two BMI classification systems, to predict obesity and metabolic disorders in young adulthood (after a 13- to 24-year follow-up) was then compared.

Results: Independently of the classification system employed to determine adiposity based on childhood BMI, the odds of being obese and having all of the metabolic disorders in young adulthood were significantly (p<0.05) higher in the overweight and obese groups by comparison with the nonoverweight groups. Childhood overweight and obesity, determined by both the CDC Reference and IOTF Reference, had a low sensitivity and a high specificity for predicting obesity and metabolic disorders in young adulthood. Overweight and obesity as determined by the CDC Reference were slightly more sensitive and slightly less specific than the corresponding values based on the IOTF Reference.

Discussion: Overweight and obesity during childhood, as determined by both the CDC and IOTF BMI cut-off points, are strong predictors of obesity and coronary heart disease risk factors in young adulthood. The differences in the predictive capacity of the CDC Reference and IOTF Reference are, however, minimal.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Cholesterol
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Louisiana / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Reference Values
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • United States / epidemiology
  • World Health Organization


  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol