Relation of childhood height to obesity among adults: the Bogalusa Heart Study

Pediatrics. 2002 Feb;109(2):E23. doi: 10.1542/peds.109.2.e23.


Objective: In a previous study of the role of various predictors of adult obesity, we found that relatively tall children had a higher body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) in early adulthood. In this study, the objective was to determine whether childhood height is related to adult adiposity and whether the association is independent of childhood levels of BMI and triceps skinfold thickness.

Methods: The longitudinal relations of childhood height to relative weight and skinfold (sum of subscapular and triceps) thicknesses in adulthood were examined in a larger sample (N = 1055) of 2- to 8-year-olds who were followed for an average of 18 years.

Results: Compared with children whose heights were below the gender- and age-specific median, a child with a height-for-age above the 95th percentile (P) was approximately 2.5 times as likely to have a BMI > or =30 kg/m2 and approximately 5 times as likely to have a skinfold sum >90th P in adulthood. Although height and adiposity were associated (r = 0.29) among children, the observed longitudinal relations persisted after controlling for BMI and the triceps skinfold thickness in childhood. For example, among children with the same BMI, each 10-cm difference in height was associated with differences in adulthood of 0.9 kg/m2 for BMI and 4 mm for the skinfold sum.

Conclusions: Although these results need to be confirmed in other studies, it is possible that information on childhood height could be used to identify more accurately children who are likely to be obese in later life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Height / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Skinfold Thickness