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Metabolism. 2009 Sep;58(9):1329-37. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2009.04.017. Epub 2009 Jun 18.

Racial differences in body fat distribution among reproductive-aged women.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston TX 77555-0587, USA.


We examined the influence of race/ethnicity on body fat distribution for a given body mass index (BMI) among reproductive-aged women. Body weight, height, and body fat distribution were measured with a digital scale, wall-mounted stadiometer, and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, respectively, on 708 healthy black, white, and Hispanic women 16 to 33 years of age. Multiple linear regression was used to model the relationship between race/ethnicity and different body fat distribution variables after adjusting for BMI, age at menarche, and demographic and lifestyle variables. For a given BMI, white women had the highest total fat mass (FM(total)), trunk fat mass (FM(trunk)), and leg fat mass (FM(leg)), whereas Hispanic women had the highest percentage of FM(trunk) (%FM(trunk)) and trunk-to-limb fat mass ratio (FMR(trunk-to-limb)). Conversely, black women had the lowest FM(total), FM(trunk), percentage body fat mass (%FM), %FM(trunk), and FMR(trunk-to-limb), and the highest percentage of FM(leg). The %FM was similar in whites and Hispanics and lower in blacks. The race x BMI interactions were significant for almost all of the body fat distribution variables. Increasing in differences with increasing BMI were apparent between blacks and whites in FM(trunk), %FM(trunk), FMR(trunk-to-limb), %FM(leg), and %FM, and between blacks and Hispanics in FM(trunk), %FM(trunk), FMR(trunk-to-limb), and FM(leg). In summary, the distribution of body fat for a given BMI differs by race among reproductive-aged women. These findings raise questions regarding universally applied BMI-based guidelines for obesity and have implications for patient education regarding individual risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic complications.

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