Body fat is differentially related to body mass index in U.S.-born African-American and East African immigrant girls

Am J Hum Biol. 2011 Sep-Oct;23(5):720-3. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.21201. Epub 2011 Jul 25.


Objective: To examine ethnic differences in adiposity at a given body mass index (BMI) in a sample of U.S.-born African-American and East African immigrant adolescent girls.

Methods: In a sample of black adolescent girls (n = 79; ages 14-20) we compared measures of adiposity across the range of BMI-for-age among 55 U.S.-born African-American (mean BMI: 30.4; age: 15.4) and 24 East African immigrant girls (mean BMI: 21.8; age: 16.7). Fat and fat-free mass were assessed with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). We used spline regression to examine the distributions of fat mass index and percent body fat across the range of BMI-for-age z-scores.

Results: Compared with African-American girls, East African girls were smaller on all body measures, but appeared to have higher fat mass index and percent body fat at the same BMI-for-age.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that at a given BMI East African immigrants may have greater adiposity than African-American girls. If corroborated in larger samples, our data suggest that the cardiometabolic risks attendant to elevated adiposity may affect East African girls at a lower BMI than in African-American girls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adiposity / ethnology*
  • Adolescent
  • Africa, Eastern / ethnology
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Young Adult