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CHILD HEALTH

Body composition is essential for understanding a patient’s physiological makeup and, helps measure and track changes in body composition. Body mass index (BMI) is a simple ratio of weight to height that is often used to assess growth and health in children and adolescents. Growth charts providing BMI percentiles by age, as well as BMI calculators, have been made readily available by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for public use. However, when it comes to evaluating health and development, BMI should be interpreted with caution as it is incapable of distinguishing between fat and lean mass. While a high BMI is often indicative of excess fat mass, it may also reflect increased lean mass, which is generally the case with more active individuals. The interpretation of BMI among youth is further complicated by growth and the accompanying physical changes that influence weight, height, and physiological makeup. Therefore, a more complex health indicator, such as body composition, is necessary for a comprehensive analysis of health status in pediatric populations.

 

In less than 60 seconds, the InBody Test provides easy-to-understand, accurate and objective measurements to evaluate changes in body composition. The InBody can be used to:

  • Provides valuable information for monitoring growth trends throughout childhood and adolescence

  • Alert providers and administrators to potential health risks associated with obesity, allowing for earlier implementation of lifestyle behavior modifications

  • Create personalized nutrition and exercise interventions to improve long-term youth health outcomes

Easily monitor growth trends throughout childhood and adolescence

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InBody provides accurate and reliable measures of body composition for tracking changes in growth and maturation throughout youth and into adulthood. It is crucial to be able to monitor body composition during puberty as fat-free mass (FFM) and fat mass (FM) can change quickly during this time. These changes are influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, diet, lifestyle, and environment, and have different implications for development across the growth spectrum. Body composition changes from infancy to early childhood have been associated with different areas of cognitive function, and emerging research points to a connection between body composition and academic performance. With growing rates of childhood obesity, obese adolescents have a higher rate of missed school days per year than those with a normal weight. Reduced school attendance can impact social and mental development, hindering motor and cognitive skills.  By identifying trends in body composition in early childhood or adolescence, negative effects on health that can translate into poor development or academic performance may be prevented.

Childhood and adolescence are marked by complex changes in weight, height and body composition, making it difficult to evaluate growth trends and associated health risks. Body composition analysis provides valuable information for monitoring growth trends throughout childhood and adolescence.

While physiological aspects may be more readily observed, the association between physical and mental health should not be ignored as it can have a significant impact on mental and social development in the youth population. Nutrition is an integral part of proper development, especially as unhealthy eating habits begin to form during youth and often persist into adulthood. Children from low-income families are less likely to consume nutrient-dense foods, placing them at risk for undernourishment and delayed neural development. These important indicators for normal growth are statistically influenced by body weight and muscle-fat balance.

However, traditional measures of health, such as BMI, are insensitive and incapable of reflecting physiological changes underlying fluctuations in weight. Consequently, body composition measurement is an essential part of health assessments for children and adolescents.

Understand potential health risks associated with obesity

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Another common concern with body composition during growth is lean mass development. The combination of very low muscle and excess fat, known as sarcopenic obesity, compounds the negative effects of either condition on metabolic health. Sarcopenic obesity is generally associated with aging in adults; however, due to lifestyle factors such as sedentary behavior starting at an earlier age, its prevalence is now increasing in younger populations. Not only does it impair normal growth in children and adolescents, but low muscle mass can also further exacerbate obesity-related conditions such as insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and inflammation, impacting long-term health outcomes. Thus, especially in pediatric populations, accurate and reliable body composition measurements are needed to effectively assess health risks for timely intervention.

InBody provides in-depth measures of total body fat and segmental fat mass, which can be used to identify obesity and fat distribution in children and adolescents. In addition, visceral fat measures allow for distinction of increased health risks associated specifically with central adiposity, which may indicate the need for close monitoring or more intense, focused health interventions. Furthermore, muscle mass can be assessed in conjunction with fat mass to determine risk of sarcopenic obesity, which requires a different interventional approach compared to sarcopenia or obesity by itself. Thus, earlier identification of obesity and its subtypes can translate into more effective prediction of long-term health risks and equips providers and administrators with the tools to implement and track the effectiveness of lifestyle education and behavior modifications to improve health outcomes.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that comes with both short-term and long-term consequences. As with adult obesity, childhood obesity increases the risk of many chronic diseases, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, and is linked to early puberty. This combination of cardiometabolic disease risk factors can manifest as early as five years of age and often persists into adulthood. In addition to overall body fat, abdominal obesity has independent effects on health. Visceral fat is a metabolically active tissue that can start to develop and accumulate in early childhood. This centrally located adipose tissue is linked with a number of the aforementioned conditions. In addition, growing evidence points to an association between visceral adiposity and insulin resistance originating in childhood. Insulin resistance is a precursor to metabolic syndrome and increases risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Therefore, identification of excess visceral fat in addition to overall adiposity is crucial for predicting risk of developing chronic diseases that will also have lasting health effects in adulthood.

 

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