Percentile curves for skinfold thickness in 7- to 14-year-old children and adolescents from Jena, Germany

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Objective:To present age- and sex-specific percentile curves for triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness, and to investigate long-term changes in skinfold thickness in children.Subjects/Methods:A cross-sectional study of children and adolescents was conducted in Jena/Germany in 2005/2006. The sample consisted of 2132 children (1018 girls and 1114 boys) aged 7-14 years and equated to the anthropometric characteristics of the German sample included in the reference values for body mass index (BMI). Height, weight and triceps and subscapular skinfold measurements were obtained using standardized methods. Smoothed percentile curves for triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness were derived by the LMS method. Data were compared with historical data of Jena schoolchildren from 1975.Results:In both sexes, skinfold thickness increased between 7 and 14 years of age in a sex-specific pattern, with generally higher median values for triceps and subscapular skinfold in girls than boys. A comparison with skinfold thickness measured in Jena schoolchildren three decades ago showed a significant increase in subcutaneous fat. The changes in the lower range (below the tenth percentile) of the distribution exceed those in the upper range (above the 90th percentile) for both triceps and subscapular skinfold in both sexes. Furthermore, this gain in subcutaneous fat mainly occurred in underweight and normal-weight subjects, whereas skinfold thickness remained nearly unchanged in overweight subjects.Conclusions:The up-to-date percentile curves for skinfold thickness provide a basis for monitoring of individuals and evaluation of long-term trends in German children and adolescents. The changes in skinfold thickness indicate an unfavourable increase in adiposity, as well as an unfavourable change in the relationship between BMI and body fat in children and adolescents over time.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012) 66, 613-621; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2011.216; published online 18 January 2012

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