Expected changes in clinical measures of adiposity during puberty

Nicole L. Mihalopoulos, Richard Holubkov, Paul Young, Shifan Dai, Darwin R. Labarthe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Clinicians use several measures to estimate adiposity. Body mass index (BMI), although not a measure of adiposity, is commonly used to define weight status. Percent body fat (%BF) measures total body fatness, which is composed of central and peripheral fat, estimated by waist circumference (WC) and skinfold thickness, respectively. Abnormal increases in fat during puberty may reflect an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is important to establish the normal patterns of change in clinically relevant measures of adiposity. Purpose: To describe the normal patterns of change in clinical measures of adiposity during puberty. Design/Methods: Multilevel modeling and linear regression analyses of 642 children in Project HeartBeat!, aged 8-18 years (non-black and black), who had assessments of BMI, %BF, WC, sums of 2- and 6-skinfolds, and pubertal stage (PS) triennially between 1991 and 1995. Results: In males, the normal pattern from PS1 to PS5 is for %BF to decrease, skinfold thickness to remain stable, and WC to increase. However, after adjusting for height, WC does not change. In females, %BF remains stable from PS1 to PS5, whereas skinfold thickness increases. As in males waist-height ratio does not change, indicating that central adiposity does not normally increase during puberty. Although BMI increases in both genders and races from PS1 to PS5, mean values at PS5 were well below 25 kg/m2. Conclusions: During puberty, increase in %BF is abnormal in females and even more so in males. Likewise, increase in waist-height ratio is also abnormal and may suggest an increased risk for adiposity-associated morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-366
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2010


  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Body composition
  • Children
  • Puberty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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