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Nuclear techniques to assess body composition in children and adolescents as a risk factor in the development of chronic diseases (E43024)

Prevention and control of NCDs: IAEA’s contribution through coordinated research

In the week that the Director General of the World Health Organisation announced the creation of a commission to address the global increase in childhood obesity, particularly in developing countries, at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, the IAEA hosted the final coordination meeting of CRP E4.30.24 ‘Nuclear techniques to assess body composition in children and adolescents as a risk factor in the development of chronic diseases’ at the IAEA Headquarters, Vienna (19 to 23 May 2014) to review the achievements of the project. Health consequences of obesity begin during childhood, and persist and worsen later in adulthood. Strategies for prevention of obesity are required early in life.

Little is known about the variation and diversity of children’s body composition in low to middle income countries. Patterns of growth and development in childhood can have profound effects on future health and wellbeing. This CRP collected information about the body composition of children aged 6 to 16 years from 10 middle to low income countries. In all countries age, gender, weight, height, waist circumference and total body fat measured by deuterium dilution were recorded. Currently, obesity is diagnosed based on body mass index for age (BMI = weight/height2, kg/m2), but the proportion of body fat at any particlar BMI is not consistent in individuals from different ethnic groups. For several years, IAEA has promoted standardised techniques for assessment of body composition to facilitate comparisons between different age and ethnic groups. The main outcome of this CRP will be information on the relationship and discriminatory capacity of percentage body fat compared to body mass index (BMI) to assess relative adiposity.

Data has been collected from 10 low and middle income Member States (Brazil, China, Cuba, Guatemala, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Uruguay,) supported by technical experts from Chile, Australia and New Zealand. The meeting offered the opportunity for exchange and sharing of information and the opportunity to interact face-to-face meant that mutual understanding was achieved. This was underpinned by new insights and an appreciation of the diversity and similarities of the growth and body composition of children from diverse settings. A key outcome was the compilation of novel findings regarding the lifestyle practices and body composition of children and adolescents using stable isotope techniques. This important information will add significantly to our knowledge and understanding in the area. Importantly, outcomes will inform policy and further research questions that need to be answered in the mission to improve children’s health globally.