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Body Fat in Children
Measuring Subcutaneous Fat Tissue in Children, Skin Fold Thickness
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Measuring Body Fat in Children

Infants & Body Fat
In infants born at term, fat mass constitutes 13 to 15 percent of total body weight. This proportion then varies with age. After the pre-puberty rebound, there is an increase in body fat in girls and a decrease in boys. Early in adulthood, 20 to 25 percent of the female body is composed of fat while in males, the percentage is 15 to 20 percent body fat.

Intra-Abdominal Fat Mass & Children
In children, most of the fat mass is subcutaneous. North American weight loss studies have however shown that starting at the age of 7 years, Caucasian children have a greater intra-abdominal fat mass than Afro-American children. Anthropometric measurements - body weight, height, circumferences (waist, hip, upper arm), skin fold thickness - provide direct indications of body fat. Body weight and height are two simple measurements that can be used to draw body composition curves (BMI). These curves are universal indicators applicable in all circumstances and widely used by practitioners. Although it is easy to measure waist, hip and limb circumferences, the results obtained are subject to important errors because it is difficult to identify the precise anatomic area to measure and because intra-observer variability is high.

Skin Fold Thickness & Obesity
For skin fold thickness, a costly, specially designed caliper is needed to acquire quality measurements at one or several sites (tricipital, bicipital, sub or suprascapular). This method is not adapted for severely obese children because it is difficult to correctly measure the thickness of the entire subcutaneous fat layer. Theoretically, skin fold thickness is more appropriate for epidemiological research.

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