Overweight, Obesity and Abdominal Obesity in Primary School Children in Pavia, Northern Italy

Childhood obesity has been described as the main health-related problem in developed countries, due to its link with physical, social and psychological consequences with an increased risk for developing metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in adulthood.
All the pupils of both sexes attending the second year of all the primary schools in Pavia, Northern Italy, were recruited (n=470) for this study. Measurements of weight, height and waist circumference (WC) were taken under standard conditions. Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist-to-height-ratio (W/HtR) were computed and sex specific percentile values for BMI, WC and W/HtR were calculated and compared with the same percentiles available for different countries.
The results show that according to Cole’s cut-off point reference standards, 12.5% and 9.0% of boys and girls respectively are overweight, 4.7% and 5.2% respectively are obese. The WC mean value is equal to 60.0 ± 6.0 cm in boys and 59.0 ± 6.7 cm in girls. Using different 90th reference worldwide standard percentiles for WC as a comparison, the prevalence of our children with WC > 90th percentile is very different. The W/HtR mean value of the total sample is 0.46 ± 0.03. Assuming a cutoff of 0.5, 87.6% of the pupils have a W/HtR value ≤ 0.5, while 12.4% of the subjects have a value > 0.5, showing abdominal obesity among 55 children at an early age.
Our results point out the need for specific preventive and treatment interventions by identifying and implementing effective strategies, policies, and nutritional education programs in order to decrease the prevalence rate of obesity as well as the risk of metabolic disorders.
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