Sexual maturation and obesity in 9- and 10-year-old black and white girls: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study

J Pediatr. 1994 Jun;124(6):889-95. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(05)83176-2.


Objective: To assess the relationship between pubertal maturation and obesity in 9- and 10-year-old black and white girls.

Method: Cross-sectional analysis of cohort baseline data.

Subjects: A cohort of 2379 girls recruited from selected schools in Richmond, Calif., and greater Cincinnati, Ohio, and from the membership rolls of a prepaid group practice in greater Washington, D.C.

Results: Sixty-four percent of black girls had begun pubertal maturation compared with 33% of white girls. In prepubertal girls, racial differences in height, weight, body mass index (kilograms per square meter) and skin-fold thickness were not significant. Within each race, onset of pubertal maturation was associated with greater height, weight, body mass index, and skin-fold measurements. Within 9-year-old girls who had begun pubertal maturation but not reached menarche, black girls were taller and heavier than white girls. Among pubertal but premenarcheal 10-year-old subjects, black girls were taller and heavier and had greater body mass index and subscapular skin-fold values. After analyses were adjusted for pubertal maturation stage by means of pubic hair development, 10-year-old pubertal black girls remained taller and heavier, but racial differences in body mass index and the sum of skin-fold measurements ceased to be significant.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the initiation of racial differences in obesity are related, at least temporally, to pubertal maturation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Puberty / physiology
  • Sexual Maturation*