Reduced fat oxidation and obesity risks among the Buryat of Southern Siberia

William R. Leonard, Mark V. Sorensen, M. J. Mosher, Victor Spitsyn, Anthony G. Comuzzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Over the last 20 years, obesity and associated metabolic diseases have emerged as major global health problems. Among urbanizing populations of developing regions of the world, childhood undernutrition often coexists with adult overnutrition, a phenomenon known as the "dual nutritional burden". A recent work (Frisancho [2003]: Am J Hum Biol 15:522-532) suggests that linear growth stunting in early childhood may contribute to adult obesity by reducing the body's ability to oxidize fat. We test central aspects of this model drawing on data from 112 adult Buryat herders (53 males; 59 females) from Southern Siberia. The results are consistent with the predictions of the model, but only for women. Shorter Buryat women (height-for-age Z-scores ≤ -1) have significantly lower fasting fat oxidation levels compared to their taller counterparts. Shorter women are also significantly heavier and fatter, and have higher serum lipid levels. Among all Buryat women, reduced fat oxidation is significantly correlated with percent body fatness, serum triglyceride levels, and serum leptin levels, after controlling for relevant covariates. Additionally, Buryat women with high dietary fat intakes and low fat oxidation are significantly fatter and have higher lipid and leptin levels than those with low fat intakes and high fat oxidation. These results suggest that developmental changes in fat oxidation may play a role in the origins of obesity among populations with high rates of linear growth stunting. Further longitudinal research is necessary to elucidate the pathways through which early-life undernutrition may increase risks for adulthood obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-670
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anatomy


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