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Ethnic and gender differences in body fat in British schoolchildren as measured by DXA
  1. Nicholas J Shaw1,
  2. Nicola J Crabtree1,2,
  3. Mohammed S Kibirige3,
  4. John N Fordham4
  1. 1
    Department of Endocrinology, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2
    Department of Nuclear Medicine, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3
    Department of Paediatrics, James Cook University Hospital, Middlesborough, UK
  4. 4
    Department of Rheumatology, James Cook University Hospital, Middlesborough, UK
  1. Dr N J Shaw, Department of Endocrinology, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham B4 6NH, UK; nick.shaw{at}bch.nhs.uk

Abstract

Background: There are known to be ethnic differences in body composition in adults which are related to ethnic differences in adult disease.

Objectives: To evaluate gender and ethnic differences in percentage body fat in British schoolchildren and to compare these differences with classification of obesity using body mass index (BMI) criteria.

Design: A cross-sectional study of 1251 healthy children and adolescents aged 5–18 years from white, South Asian and African-Caribbean ethnic groups. Percentage body fat was determined by dual x ray absorptiometry and the subjects classified using BMI criteria for overweight and obesity.

Results: Significant gender differences in percentage body fat were seen, with girls having higher values from the age of 5 years. Girls had 3.8% higher percentage body fat at 5 years of age increasing to 12.9% at 18 years of age. Significant ethnic differences were found, with South Asian girls and boys having the highest percentage body fat from 5 and 7 years of age, respectively. These differences increased with age, being most significant in the teenage years. Although South Asian girls and boys were over-represented in the group containing children with more than 25% body fat (p<0.0001, χ2 test), African-Caribbean subjects were more likely to be classified as obese using BMI criteria.

Conclusions: There are clear gender and ethnic differences in percentage body fat in British schoolchildren which may relate to known differences in the risk of type 2 diabetes in adolescence and adulthood. BMI criteria for defining overweight and obesity do not accurately identify ethnic differences in body fat.

  • body composition
  • ethnic groups
  • body mass index

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Footnotes

  • Funding: This study was initially funded by a grant from the National Osteoporosis Society and subsequent funding was obtained from The Pulse Trust and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charitable Funds.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Abbreviations:
    AC
    African-Caribbean
    BMI
    body mass index
    DXA
    dual-energy x ray absorptiometry
    IOTF
    International Obesity Task Force
    SA
    South Asian
    SDS
    standard deviation score
    W
    white

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