Objective: To estimate lean body mass (LBM) in preschool aged boys and girls in India and explore gender difference.
Setting: Immunization clinic of a charitable Government General Hospital in Kolkata, India.
Subjects: Two-hundred and forty-five children (147 boys and 98 girls) aged 1-5 y from among the urban poor were admitted in the study between July 1999 and December 2000. Children with acute or chronic illness or congenital malformation were excluded.
Method: Length/height to the nearest 0.1 cm, weight to the nearest 10 g and total body resistance using multifrequency bioelectrical (Xitron 4000B) impedance analyzer (BIA) at 50 kHz were measured. Their nutritional status was compared with National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) median data and lean body mass (LBM) was calculated using anthropometry and BIA equations. The groups were compared using analysis of variance and multiple linear regression.
Results: Girls were more stunted (P<0.001) and underweight (P<0.047), while the degree of wasting was similar. Mean LBM percentage was higher in boys compared with girls by anthropometry (P<0.001) and BIA (P<0.005), which persisted after adjusting for age. With increasing age, LBM percentage declined in girls (P<0.02) in contrast to reference girls, in whom it increased. In boys LBM percentage increased with age as is in reference boys.
Conclusions: In addition to the girls being more stunted and underweight, LBM% decreased in girls with increasing age but steadily increased in boys, suggesting hidden deprivation of female children.