Diagnostic comparison of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and International Obesity Task Force criteria for obesity classification in South African children

10 Oct 2019

Background: This study was designed to estimate overweight and obesity in school children by using contrasting definitions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). Method: The sample size consisted of 1361 learners (n = 678 boys; n = 683 girls) aged 9–13 years who were randomly selected from Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces of South Africa. A cross-sectional and descriptive design was used to measure the children’s anthropometric characteristics. Based on height and weight measurements, the children’s body mass index (BMI) was calculated and used to classify them as underweight, overweight and obese. Percentage body fat was calculated from the sum of two skinfolds (i.e. triceps and subscapular). Age-specific BMI, percentage body fat and sum of skinfolds were examined for the boys and girls. Results: A higher prevalence of overweight and obesity was found in boys and girls when the CDC BMI categories were used. In contrast, the IOTF BMI classifications indicated a strong prevalence of underweight among the children. Conclusion: In contrast to the IOTF index that yielded a greater occurrence of underweight among South African children, the CDC criteria indicated a higher prevalence of obesity and overweight among the same children. Future large-scale surveillance studies are needed to determine the appropriateness of different definitions in order to establish a more reliable indicator for estimating overweight and obesity in South African children.