Studies in the distribution of body fat: I. Effects of age, sex, and obesity

J Gerontol. 1989 Mar;44(2):M66-73. doi: 10.1093/geronj/44.2.m66.


The pattern of body fat distribution has been shown to be related to a large number of variables of clinical importance. A variety of indices have been devised, many of them simple enough to be useful in large-scale clinical studies. Relationships among these several indices and systematic information on the effects of age, sex, and obesity have, however, not been systematically studied. Five anthropometric ratios that classify individuals into different body types have been computed for 1179 men and women aged 17-96 years. These are: waist hip ratio, arm thigh ratio, waist thigh ratio, waist arm ratio, and subscapular triceps skinfold ratio. In general, the age patterns show progressive trends toward increasing upper and central body fat deposition with age. In women there tends to be a postmenopausal acceleration of this trend. The ratios are distinctly higher in men than in women and are also independently influenced by the body mass index. Predictive equations that take age and BMI into account for each of the indices for men and women have been provided.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Body Composition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity*
  • Sex Factors