British Journal of Nutrition

Body Composition

The assessment of the body fat percentage by skinfold thickness measurements in childhood and young adolescence

Paul Deurenberga1, John J. L. Pietersa1* and Joseph G. A. J. Hautvasta1

a1 Department of Human Nutrition, Agricultural University, Bomenweg 2, NL 6703 HD Wageningen, The Netherlands

Abstract

The relationship of skinfold thicknesses to body density and of skinfold thicknesses to densitometrically determined body fat was evaluated in a group of 378 boys and girls, aged 7–20 years. According to their maturation level, they were divided into a prepubertal, a pubertal and a post-pubertal group. In each maturation group boys were older, had higher body-weights and body heights, higher body densities, lower percentage body fat, higher waist:hips ratios and higher trunk:total skinfolds ratios than girls. Body density in each maturation level could be quite precisely predicted by skinfold thicknesses. In prepubertal and pubertal boys and girls but not in post-pubertal boys and girls, age was also an important predicting variable for body density. The assessment of percentage body fat from skinfold thicknesses had a prediction error of 3–5 %, which was highest in the prepubertal children. The prediction error is comparable to the prediction error of percentage body fat from skinfold thicknesses in adults, as reported in the literature. Only in post-pubertal boys and girls was the waist:hip ratio correlated with measures of body fatness. Moreover, only in the post-pubertal boys and in the pubertal and post-pubertal girls was the waist:hips ratio correlated with another measure of body fat distribution, the trunk:total skinfold ratio. The relative amount of internal body fat was found to be higher in the younger maturation groups. It is concluded that at younger ages the waist:hips ratio is a poor indicator of body fat distribution.

(Received March 07 1989)

(Accepted October 14 1989)

Footnotes

* Chief Medical Office, PO Box 5406, NL 2280 AK Rijswijk, The Netherlands.

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