Scaling children’s waist circumference for differences in body size

Alan Nevill, Michael Duncan, Ian Lahart, Paul Davies, Robinson Ramirez-Velez, Gavin Sandercock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives: Both waist circumference (WC) and body size (height) increase with age throughout childhood. Hence, there is a need to scale waist circumference in children to detect differences in adiposity status (e.g., between populations and different age groups), independent of body size/height.
Methods: Using 2 culturally different samples, 1 English (10-15.9years n = 9471) and 2 Colombian (14-15years, n = 37948), for WC to be independent of height (HT), a body shape index was obtained using the allometric power law WC=a.HTb. The model was linearized using log-transformation, and multiple regression/ANCOVA to estimate the height exponents for WC controlling for age, sex and any other categorical/population differences.
Results in both samples the power-law height exponent varied systematically with age. In younger children (age 10-11 years), the exponent was approximately unity, suggesting that pre-pubertal children might be geometrically similar. In older children, the height exponent declined monotonically to 0.5 (i.e., HT0.5) in 15+ year olds, similar to the exponent observed in adults. UK children’s height-adjusted WC revealed a ‘u’ shaped curve with age that appeared to reach a minimum at peak-height velocity, different for boys and girls. Comparing the WC of two populations (UK versus Colombian 14-15 year old children) identified that the gap in WC between the countries narrowed considerably after scaling for height.
Conclusions: Scaling children’s WC for differences in height using allometric modelling reveals new insights in the growth and development of children’s WC, findings that might well have been be overlooked if body size/height had been ignored.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23037
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number6
Early online date12 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Allometric modelling
  • power law
  • geometric similarity
  • waist circumference
  • height


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