The dilemma of misclassifying weight in short and in historic population
Background: Clinicians often refer anthropometric measures of a child to so-called “growth standards” and “growth references. Over 140 countries have meanwhile adopted WHO growth standards.
Objectives: The present study was conducted to thoroughly examine the idea of growth standards as a common yardstick for all populations. Weight depends on height. We became interested in whether also weight-for-height depends on height. First, we studied the age-group effect on weight-for-height. Thereafter, we tested the applicability of weight-for-height references in short and in historic populations.
Sample and Methods: We analyzed body height and body weight and weight-for-height of 3795 healthy boys and 3726 healthy girls aged 2 to 5 years measured in East-Germany between 1986 and 1990.
We chose contemporary height and weight charts from Germany, the UK, and the WHO growth chart and compared these with three geographically commensurable growth charts from the end of the 19th century.
Results: We analyzed body height and body weight and weight-for-height of 3795 healthy boys and 3726 healthy girls aged 2 to 5 years measured in East-Germany between 1986 and 1990.
We chose contemporary height and weight charts from Germany, the UK, and the WHO growth chart and compared these with three geographically commensurable growth charts of the end of the 19th century.
Conclusion: Weight-for-height depends on age and sex and apart from the nutritional state, reflects body proportion and body built particularly during infancy and early childhood. Populations with a relatively short average height are prone to high values of weight-for-height for arithmetic reasons independent of the nutritional state.
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