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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


VEIGA, Glória Valéria da; DIAS, Patrícia Camacho  and  ANJOS, Luiz Antonio dos. A comparison of distribution curves of body mass index from Brazil and the United States for assessing overweight and obesity in Brazilian adolescents. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2001, vol.10, n.2, pp.79-85. ISSN 1680-5348.

Objective. To assess the validity of recommendations for use of the 85th and 95th percentiles of body mass index (BMI) of the population in the United States of America as a screening tool to assess overweight/obesity in adolescents. Methods. We investigated the relation between BMI and percent body fat in 1 540 adolescents (717 males and 823 females) aged 10 to 17.9 years old from a private high school in Niterói, a city in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We used bioelectric impedance, with the appropriate equations for adolescents, to estimate percent body fat, which served as the gold standard (30% for girls and 25% for boys) to calculate the sensitivity and specificity of the 85th and 95th percentiles of the United States and Brazilian distribution curves of BMI. Results. Sensitivity and specificity were high (above 80%) for the Niterói boys, except for the 85th percentile of the Brazilian curve (specificity = 61.8%) and for the 95th percentile of the United States curve (sensitivity = 55.4%). For the Niterói girls, the 85th- and 95th-percentile BMI cutoff points, from both the United States and Brazilian curves, showed low sensitivity, and that sensitivity decreased with age. Specificity was high for the girls, and much higher than it was for the boys. Conclusions. These data suggest that using BMI to screen for overweight/obesity in adolescents can generate a high percentage of false-positives for Niterói boys and an even higher percentage of false-negatives for Niterói girls. A more universal approach to using anthropometric measures to screen for overweight/obesity should be developed, preferably linked to stages of maturation.

Keywords : Health of adolescents; obesity; Brazil; body mass index.

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