Neonatal anthropometry: the thin-fat Indian baby. The Pune Maternal Nutrition Study

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Feb;27(2):173-80. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.802219.


Objective: To examine body size and fat measurements of babies born in rural India and compare them with white Caucasian babies born in an industrialised country.

Design: Community-based observational study in rural India, and comparison with data from an earlier study in the UK, measured using similar methods.

Subjects: A total of 631 term babies born in six rural villages, near the city of Pune, Maharashtra, India, and 338 term babies born in the Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton, UK.

Measurements: Maternal weight and height, and neonatal weight, length, head, mid-upper-arm and abdominal circumferences, subscapular and triceps skinfold thicknesses, and placental weight.

Results: The Indian mothers were younger, lighter, shorter and had a lower mean body mass index (BMI) (mean age, weight, height and BMI: 21.4 y, 44.6 kg, 1.52 m, and 18.2 kg/m(2)) than Southampton mothers (26.8 y, 63.6 kg, 1.63 m and 23.4 kg/m(2)). They gave birth to lighter babies (mean birthweight: 2.7 kg compared with 3.5 kg). Compared to Southampton babies, the Indian babies were small in all body measurements, the smallest being abdominal circumference (s.d. score: -2.38; 95% CI: -2.48 to -2.29) and mid-arm circumference (s.d. score: -1.82; 95% CI: -1.89 to -1.75), while the most preserved measurement was the subscapular skinfold thickness (s.d. score: -0.53; 95% CI: -0.61 to -0.46). Skinfolds were relatively preserved in the lightest babies (below the 10th percentile of birthweight) in both populations.

Conclusions: Small Indian babies have small abdominal viscera and low muscle mass, but preserve body fat during their intrauterine development. This body composition may persist postnatally and predispose to an insulin-resistant state.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / anatomy & histology
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry*
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • India
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / embryology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / ethnology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Phenotype
  • Rural Health
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • United Kingdom