Gender differences in newborn subcutaneous fat distribution

Eur J Pediatr. 2004 Aug;163(8):457-61. doi: 10.1007/s00431-004-1468-z. Epub 2004 May 27.


The pattern and distribution of subcutaneous fat in term and preterm newborns has been assessed by skinfold thicknesses (ST), describing gender and gestational age variations. Weight, length and ST (triceps, biceps, subscapular and suprailiac) were measured in 4634 neonates (2445 males and 2189 females) aged from 32 to 41 gestational weeks. Central to total skinfold ratio (CTS), (suprailiac + subscapular)/sum of 4 ST, was calculated. Males were heavier and longer than females. The sum of 4 ST and CTS was higher in females at every gestational age (with significant differences from 35 weeks) and also the sum of 4 ST per kg body weight (P < 0.05 from 32-33 weeks). Throughout the gestational period, ST increased significantly (P < 0.0001) but CTS did not show variations, neither in males nor in females.

Conclusion: term and preterm females have a more centralised pattern and more amount of subcutaneous fat than males. Central to total skinfold ratio must be considered as an index of centripetal fat store which is independant of gestational age.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Composition*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Skinfold Thickness*
  • Whites