The double burden of malnutrition (under- and overnutrition) is a serious public health issue in childhood. The mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) is a simple tool for screening nutritional status, but studies of the optimal cutoff to define malnutrition are limited. This study aimed to explore the prediction of malnutrition by MUAC in Sri Lankan schoolchildren. The participants were 538 students (202 boys, 336 girls) aged 5–10 years. Spearman’s rank correlation was calculated for MUAC and both body-mass-index-for-age z-score (BAZ) and height-for-age z-score (HAZ). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was conducted to assess the ability of MUAC to correctly classify malnutrition, after stratifying for age and birth weight. MUAC correlated significantly with BAZ (r
= 0.84) and HAZ (r
= 0.35). The areas under the ROC curve for thinness, overweight, obesity, and stunting were 0.88, 0.97, 0.97, and 0.77, respectively. The optimal MUAC cutoff values for predicting thinness and stunting were 167.5 mm and 162.5 mm, respectively; the optimal cutoffs for predicting overweight and obesity were 190.5 mm and 218.0 mm, respectively. These cutoffs differed after stratification by age group and birth weight. Our results confirm MUAC to be a useful tool for monitoring growth in schoolchildren.
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