Getting to the height of the matter: the relationship between stature and adiposity in pre-pubertal children

Ethn Dis. 2013 Winter;23(1):71-6.


Objective: Height has been inversely associated with cardiometabolic disease, with adiposity as the proposed contributor. Childhood represents a time when underlying metabolic pathways converge to determine growth. Although the extent to which influence is relevant, insulin, as a key growth signaling factor, likely provides key insight into mechanisms linking height and adiposity. Insulin concentration displays well-established sex and racial differences, with hyperinsulinemia more common among African Americans (AA) females relative to European Americans (EA). The objective of our study was to evaluate the relationship between height and adiposity in children. In addition, a secondary objective was to evaluate potential moderation by insulin concentration.

Design: Seventy-two pre-pubertal children aged 4-10 years (mu = 6.6 +/- .2) participated.

Main outcome measures: Percent fat was assessed by DXA and fasting insulin by serum assay.

Results: Height was positively associated with percent fat in the overall sample (P = .04). When evaluated according to age, an association was identified at age seven years (P = .02). When evaluated by sex, a positive relationship was apparent only in AA girls (P = .05). Inclusion of insulin in the model attenuated all significant associations, barring marginal significance in those aged seven years (P = .08).

Conclusions: A positive relationship between height and adiposity is apparent, particularly among those in younger years, which is contrary to what has been consistently reported in adults. Interestingly, age seven years was identified as a point of race-associated divergence in body composition. The degree to which growth-related processes in childhood underlie developmental origins of health disparities warrants further study.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology
  • Adiposity / ethnology*
  • Adiposity / physiology
  • Black or African American
  • Body Height / ethnology*
  • Body Height / physiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • White People