Waist-to-height ratio as a screening tool for obesity and cardiometabolic risk

Korean J Pediatr. 2016 Nov;59(11):425-431. doi: 10.3345/kjp.2016.59.11.425. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


The waist-to-height ratio (WHtR), calculated by dividing the waist circumference (WC) by height, has recently gained attention as an anthropometric index for central adiposity. It is an easy-to-use and less age-dependent index to identify individuals with increased cardiometabolic risk. A WHtR cutoff of 0.5 can be used in different sex and ethnic groups and is generally accepted as a universal cutoff for central obesity in children (aged ≥6 years) and adults. However, the WHtR has not been validated in preschool children, and the routine use of WHtR in children under age 6 is not recommended. Prospective studies and meta-analysis in adults revealed that the WHtR is equivalent to or slightly better than WC and superior to body mass index (BMI) in predicting higher cardiometabolic risk. In children and adolescents, studies have shown that the WHtR is similar to both BMI and WC in identifying those at an increased cardiometabolic risk. Additional use of WHtR with BMI or WC may be helpful because WHtR considers both height and central obesity. WHtR may be preferred because of its simplicity and because it does not require sex- and age-dependent cutoffs; additionally, the simple message 'keep your WC to less than half your height' may be particularly useful. This review article summarizes recent publications on the usefulness of using WHtR especially when compared to BMI and WC as a screening tool for obesity and related cardiometabolic risks, and recommends the use of WHtR in clinical practice for obesity screening in children and adolescents.

Keywords: Abdominal obesity; Pediatric obesity; Waist circumference.

Publication types

  • Review