BACKGROUND: : Thinness in children and adolescents is largely under studied, a contrast with abundant literature on under-nutrition in infants and on overweight in children and adolescents. The aim of this study is to compare the prevalence of thinness using two recently developed growth references, among children and adolescents living in the Seychelles, an economically rapidly developing country in the African region. METHOD: S: Weight and height were measured every year in all children of 4 grades (age range: 5 to 16 years) of all schools in the Seychelles as part of a routine school-based surveillance program. In this study we used data collected in 16,672 boys and 16,668 girls examined from 1998 to 2004. Thinness was estimated according to two growth references: i) an international survey (IS), defining three grades of thinness corresponding to a BMI of 18.5, 17.0 and 16.0 kg/m2 at age 18 and ii) the WHO reference, defined here as three categories of thinness (-1, -2 and -3 SD of BMI for age) with the second and third named "thinness" and "severe thinness", respectively. RESULTS: : The prevalence of thinness was 21.4%, 6.4% and 2.0% based on the three IS cut-offs and 27.7%, 6.7% and 1.2% based on the WHO cut-offs. The prevalence of thinness categories tended to decrease according to age for both sexes for the IS reference and among girls for the WHO reference. CONCLUSION: The prevalence of the first category of thinness was larger with the WHO cut-offs than with the IS cut-offs while the prevalence of thinness of "grade 2" and thinness of "grade 3" (IS cut-offs) was similar to the prevalence of "thinness" and "severe thinness" (WHO cut-offs), respectively.