• Adolescents;
  • cross-sectional study;
  • systematic review;
  • waist circumference


The objectives of this study were to (i) review extant literature on the prevalence of abdominal obesity (AO) in adolescents of both sex (10–19 years old); (ii) analyse the cut-off points used for the diagnosis of AO and (iii) compare its prevalence between developed and developing countries. The search was carried out using online databases (MEDLINE, Web of Science, EMBASE, SPORTDiscus, SCIELO and BioMed Central), references cited by retrieved articles and by contact with the authors, considering articles published from the establishment of the databanks until 19 October 2009. Only original articles and those using waist circumference in the diagnosis were considered. Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria. Fourteen of these studies were performed in developed countries. The prevalence of AO varied from 3.8% to 51.7% in adolescents from developing countries. The range of results was smaller among developed countries; with values from 8.7% to 33.2%. Eighteen different cut-off points were used. It was concluded the AO prevalence is high among adolescents, but is not clear what sex has a higher proportion and it is greater in adolescents from developing countries; however, there is no consensus in the literature about the criteria to be used.