Defining overweight and obesity among Greek children living in Thessaloniki: International versus local reference standards

Hippokratia 2011; 15 (2): 141-146

A. Christoforidis, M. Dimitriadou, E. Papadopolou, D. Stilpnopoulou, G. Katzos, M. Athanassiou-Metaxa


Background: Body Mass Index (BMI) offers a simple and reasonable measure of obesity that, with the use of the appropriate reference, can help in the early detection of children with weight problems. Our aim was to compare the two most commonly used international BMI references and the national Greek BMI reference in identifying Greek children being overweight and obese.
Methods: A group of 1557 children (820 girls and 737 boys, mean age: 11.42 ± 3.51 years) were studied. Weight and height was measured using standard methods, and BMI was calculated. Overweight and obesity were determined using the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) standards, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) BMI-forage curves and the most recent Greek BMI-for-age curves.
Results: Results showed that the IOTF’s cut-off limits identifies a significantly higher prevalence of overweight (22.4%) compared with both the CDC’s (11.8%, p=0.03) and the Greek’s (7.4%, p=0.002) cut-off limits. However, the prevalence of obesity was generally increased when it was determined using the CDC’s cut-off limits (13.9%) compared to the prevalence calculated with both the IOTF’s (6.5%, p=0.05) and the Greek’s (6.9%, n.s.) cut off limits.
Conclusions: The use of the national Greek reference standards for BMI underestimates the true prevalence of overweight and obesity. On the contrary, both the IOTF and the CDC standards, although independently, detect an increased number of overweight and obese children and thus they should be adopted in the clinical practice for an earlier identification and a timelier intervention.