Validity of currently used cutoff values of body mass index as a measure of obesity in Sri Lankan children

Ceylon Med J. 2009 Dec;54(4):114-9. doi: 10.4038/cmj.v54i4.1451.


Objective: The aim of the study was to determine the reliability of body mass index based (BMI) cutoff values in diagnosing obesity among Sri Lankan children.

Methods: Height, weight, waist circumference (WC) and hip circumference (HC) in 282 children were measured. Total body water was determined by deuterium dilution and fat mass (FM) derived using age and gender specific constants. A percentage FM of 30% for girls and 25% for boys were considered as cutoff levels for obesity.

Results: Two hundred and eighty two children (M/F: 158/124) were studied and 99 (80%) girls and 72 (45.5%) boys were obese based on % body fat. Eight (6.4%) girls and nine (5.7%) boys were obese based on International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) cutoff values. Percentage FM and WC centile charts were able to diagnose a significant proportion of children as true obese children. The FM and BMI were closely associated in both girls (r = 0.82, p < 0.001) and boys (r = 0.87, p < 0.001). Percentage FM and BMI had a very low but significant association; girls (r = 0.32, p < 0.001) and boys (r = 0.68, p < 0.001). FM had a significant association with WC and HC. BMI based cutoff values had a specificity of 100% but a very low sensitivity, varying between 8% and 23.6%.

Conclusions: BMI is a poor indicator of the percentage fat and the commonly used cutoff values were not sensitive to detect cases of childhood obesity in Sri Lankan children.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Body Fluids
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sri Lanka
  • Statistics as Topic