Prevalence of under and over weight in children with neurodisability, using body composition measures


We aimed to compare rates of under and overweight in children with different neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) by measuring weight, height/length, arm-to-leg bioelectrical impedance (BIA) and subscapular and triceps skinfolds in 146 children aged 4–16 years attending special schools. Z scores were calculated and skinfolds and lean mass Z scores were further adjusted for height. Underweight was found in 9% (14) children (body mass index (BMI) < 2nd) but only 3% (4) had skinfolds <5th centile. Overweight was much commoner, with 41% (58) children having BMI > 95th and 20% (14) had skinfolds >95th centile. Children with cerebral palsy were very short with low BMI and lean mass, but only 8% (3) had skinfolds <5th centile. The children with Down syndrome were also very short and once adjusted for height, half had skinfolds >95th centile. We conclude that overweight and raised body fat is now common in children with NDD, even when the BMI is low.

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This study was supported by the Paediatric Epidemiology and Child Health Unit, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill and the University of Glasgow. The authors would like to thank all the parents who gave consent behalf of their children to take part in the study. This study would not have been made possible without the invaluable support of school nurses and head teachers. This study was supported by funding from the University of Glasgow as part of a project for Intercalated BSc. Med Sci. Degree.

Author contributions:

CW organized the design and supervised the study. AC and SL wrote the ethics application and prepared the relevant documentation. SL carried out the field work, data entry and initial data analysis and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. CW undertook further analyses and wrote the final draft, which was reviewed by all authors before submission.

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Correspondence to Charlotte M Wright.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval:

Ethical approval was obtained from Glasgow City Council Educational Services, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Research Ethics Service and the West of Scotland Regional Ethics Service (REC:10/S0703/77). Consent was requested from head teachers of special schools before commencing data collection.

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Lip, S.Z.L., Chillingworth, A. & Wright, C.M. Prevalence of under and over weight in children with neurodisability, using body composition measures. Eur J Clin Nutr 72, 1451–1454 (2018).

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