Misclassification of child body mass index from cut-points defined by rounded percentiles instead of Z-scores Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Abstract Objective To evaluate the misclassification resulting from the use of body mass index (BMI) cut-points defined by rounded percentiles instead of Z-scores in early childhood. Using data from the TARGet Kids primary care network we conducted a cross-sectional study among 5836 children < 6 years of age. The World Health Organization growth standards were used to calculate BMI-for-age Z-scores. BMI Z-score cut-points of < − 2.0, > 1.0, > 2.0, > 3.0 are recommended to define wasted, at risk of overweight, overweight and obese. However, rounded percentiles of the 3rd, 85th, 97th, and 99.9th are commonly used. Misclassification was calculated comparing the frequency distributions for BMI categories defined by rounded percentiles and Z-score cut-points. Results Using rounded percentiles, the proportion of children who were wasted, at risk of overweight, overweight, and obese was 4.2, 12.5, 4.3 and 0.8%, whereas the distribution using Z-scores was: 3.6, 13.8, 3.4 and 1.0%, respectively. Overall, 117 (2%) children were misclassified when using percentiles instead of Z-scores; however, 13% (33/245) of children who were wasted and 14% (8/57) of children who were obese were misclassified. Misclassification of child growth results from the use of cut-points defined by rounded percentiles instead of Z-scores and limits comparability between studies. Trial registration Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01869530 June 5, 2013


  • Anderson, Laura
  • Carsley, Sarah
  • Lebovic, Gerald
  • Borkhoff, Cornelia M
  • Maguire, Jonathon L
  • Parkin, Patricia C
  • Birken, Catherine S

publication date

  • December 2017