European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 176, Issue 7, pp 909–916 | Cite as

Central overweight and obesity in Polish schoolchildren aged 7–18 years: secular changes of waist circumference between 1966 and 2012

  • Agnieszka Suder
  • Aleksandra Gomula
  • Slawomir KozielEmail author
Original Article


We investigated secular trends of body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in Polish schoolchildren examined through a period of almost 50 years. Data on height, weight and WC came from four cross-sectional surveys conducted in Poland between 1966 and 2012, covering 34,005 boys and 34,008 girls. Raw data of BMI and WC were standardized for age classes. Statistical analyses included the Kruskal-Willis test and Pearson Chi-square test. BMI and WC increased during the studied period; however, the growth was higher for WC (increase by 0.56 and 0.44 SD scores for BMI and 1.05 and 0.77 SD scores for WC in boys and girls, respectively). In boys, secular changes in BMI and WC were similar across childhood, early and late adolescence, while in girls they differed, indicating change in the type of adipose tissue distribution to a more central one in late adolescent girls.

Conclusion: During 46 years, there was a tendency to a greater increase of the fraction of individuals with central obesity than the overall one. Since abdominal fat deposit is more connected with higher health risks than subcutaneous fat pattern, probably the number of metabolic complications in Polish children and adolescents will intensify in the future.

What is Known:

BMI has significant limitations related to fat distribution, while WC is a measure of central adiposity.

Greater central fat deposition increases the risk of many diseases; therefore, WC may serve as a diagnostic measure for detecting central obesity in children at risk.

What is New:

In girls, changes in BMI and WC indicate change in adipose tissue distribution to a more central one in late adolescence girls.

Both general and abdominal obesity in Polish children increased significantly from 1966 to 2012, with the tendency to a greater increase of the fraction of individuals with central obesity than the overall one, implying the number of metabolic complications in Polish children and adolescents may intensify in the future


Central overweight Obesity Waist circumference Secular changes Schoolchildren 



Body Mass Index


Fat-free mass


Fat mass


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey


Waist circumference



The study was supported by the National Science Centre in Poland (grant no N N303804540). The funding organization had no influence on the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation and on the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

The authors would like to thank all people who participated in data digitalization as well as those who were involved in data collection and preparation of the surveys, especially Natalia Nowak-Szczepanska for her involvement in the research conducted in 2012.

Authors’ contributions

The original idea came from Slawomir Koziel, who also ran the data analysis and described the results. Agnieszka Suder drafted the manuscript and prepared the final version. Aleksandra Gomula participated in data collection, data digitalizing, database preparation and manuscript preparation.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the National Science Centre in Poland (grant no N N303804540).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all the parents of the individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnatomyUniversity of Physical Education in CracowKrakowPoland
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology, Hirschfeld Institute of Immunology and Experimental TherapyPolish Academy of SciencesWroclawPoland

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