Accuracy of Waist Circumference Measurement Using the WHO versus NIH Protocol in Predicting Visceral Adiposity Using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis among Overweight and Obese Adult Filipinos in a Tertiary Hospital




waist circumference, central obesity, visceral adiposity


*Visual Abstracts prepared by Dr. Monica Therese Cating-Cabral

OBJECTIVES. The study aimed to compare the performance of weight circumference (WC) measurement using the (World Health Organization) WHO versus National Institutes of Health (NIH) protocol in identifying visceral adiposity, and to determine the association of WC with cardiometabolic risk factors among overweight and obese adult Filipinos.

METHODOLOGY. A retrospective study involving 221 subjects (99 males, 122 females)  evaluated at an outpatient weight intervention center of a tertiary hospital. The WC was measured at the superior border of the iliac crest (WC-NIH) and midway between the lowest rib and the iliac crest (WC-WHO) for each patient. Using visceral fat rating (VF) derived via bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) as reference standard, diagnostic accuracy tests for both protocols (using cut-offs of ≥90 cm in males and ≥80 cm in females) were done. Cardiometabolic parameters were also obtained, and binary logistic regression was performed to determine associations with WC.

RESULTS. Among males, WC-WHO had 96% sensitivity (95% CI 88.8%-99.2%) and 25% specificity (95% CI 9.77%-46.7%) while WC-NIH had 94.7% sensitivity (95% CI 86.9%-98.5%) and 29.2% specificity (95% CI 12.6%-51.1%) to predict high VF >12. Among females, WC-WHO had 100% sensitivity (95% CI 90%-100%) and 24.1% specificity (95% CI 15.6%-34.5%) while WC-NIH had 100% sensitivity (95% CI 90%-100%) and 4.6% specificity (95% CI 1.3%-11.4%). Prevalence of high VF was significantly greater among males – 75.8% (95% CI 66.1%-83.8%) vs. 28.7% (95% CI 20.9%-37.6%) in females (p<0.001). Among females, WC-NIH tended to have higher measurements than WC-WHO by an average of 4.67 cm. Females with WC-WHO measurements of at least 80 cm were approximately four times more likely to have low (<50 mg/dL) HDL levels (cOR 3.82, p=<0.05), even after adjusting for age (aOR 3.83, p<0.05).

CONCLUSION. WC measurement using the WHO and NIH protocols were both highly sensitive but had low specificity in predicting high VF estimated via BIA among overweight and obese adult Filipinos in this study. WC-NIH measurements tended to be higher among the females, which may affect the classification of central obesity when using this protocol. WC ≥80 cm measured using the WHO protocol was associated with low HDL levels among female subjects. Prospective studies conducted among the general Filipino population are recommended to verify these findings.


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Author Biographies

Leslie Daphne Kawaji, St. Luke's Medical Center, Global City, Taguig, Philippines

Fellow-in-training, Center for Diabetes, Thyroid and Endocrine Disorders

Joy Arabelle Fontanilla, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City, Taguig, Philippines

Center for Diabetes, Thyroid and Endocrine Disorders, St. Luke's Medical Center, Global City, Taguig, Philippines

Head, Center for Weight Intervention and Nutrition Services, St. Luke's Medical Center, Global City, Taguig, Philippines

Associate Professor, San Beda University College of Medicine


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How to Cite

Kawaji, L. D., & Fontanilla, J. A. (2021). Accuracy of Waist Circumference Measurement Using the WHO versus NIH Protocol in Predicting Visceral Adiposity Using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis among Overweight and Obese Adult Filipinos in a Tertiary Hospital. JAFES, 36(2), 180–188.



Original Articles