A total of 21.3 percent of children aged six to 11 in Spain are suffering from abdominal obesity while this figure is 14.3 percent for adolescents aged 12 to 17.
That's the finding of Spain's first study into the problem of belly fat conducted by Barcelona's IMIM institute.
These young people are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and premature mortality as adults although they are not actually overweight, said the authors of the study published in PLOS ONE.
Researchers looked at data from 1,521 young people across Spain to get their results, measuring their waist-to-height ratio as a neutral indicator.
"Our results indicate the need to incorporate waist circumference into routine clinical practice, in addition to traditional measurements of weight and height," the scientists concluded.
Only in this way can real health risks be determined, they added.