Role of Lifetime Body Mass Index in the Association Between Age at Puberty and Adult Lipids: Findings From Men and Women in a British Birth Cohort

Ann Epidemiol. 2010 Sep;20(9):676-82. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2010.05.015.


Purpose: Why early puberty is associated with worse cardiovascular outcomes is unknown. The relationship between puberty and lipids is unclear. Our aim was to assess whether age at puberty was associated with triglyceride and total low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol at age 53 years.

Methods: Participants in a national birth cohort were examined at 15 years, when pubertal stage for boys was assessed and age at menarche reported by the girls' mothers. At 53 years, 3035 were interviewed in their homes by research nurses, where blood was taken.

Results: There was a significant inverse relationship in women but not men between age at puberty (in years) and triglycerides (regression coefficient -0.2.9, 95% confidence interval -5.5, to -0.04, p = .02), age at puberty, and age at puberty and adult body mass index (BMI; p < .001). Relationships between puberty and lipids were completely explained by BMI or waist circumference at 53 years.

Conclusions: In both sexes earlier maturation was associated with greater BMI and waist circumference in later life, which resulted in greater triglycerides and cholesterol in women. We suggest that intervention after puberty to help avoid obesity in early maturing women may improve their later cardiovascular health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / metabolism
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / metabolism
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Triglycerides / metabolism
  • United Kingdom
  • Waist Circumference


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Lipids
  • Triglycerides