Objective: To establish BMI percentile curves that describe the contemporary BMI distribution among Chinese children, and to compare their BMI percentile curves with those in two recently developed international references: the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) growth references.
Design: A cross-sectional national survey.
Setting: Thirty provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China.
Subjects: Nationally representative sample of 232 140 school students aged 7-18 years.
Results: BMI percentile curves were established using the LMS method, and were compared with the percentiles of the WHO and the US CDC references. BMI distributions and growth patterns in Chinese children were dramatically different from those in the two international reference populations. Compared with the international reference populations, younger Chinese boys (7-12 years of age) had higher values of the percentiles above the median and lower values of the percentiles below the median, suggesting that they had larger proportions of extreme BMI values in both directions. Chinese girls and older Chinese boys (15-18 years of age) had substantially lower BMI percentiles than their counterparts in the reference populations, particularly those high percentiles among older age groups.
Conclusions: The present study described the unique patterns of BMI curves at the national level, and these curves are useful as a reference for comparing different regions and for monitoring changes over time in Chinese children. Higher proportions of children with extreme values in both directions indicate that China is currently facing both an increasing level of obesity and a high level of undernutrition, simultaneously.