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Am J Epidemiol. 1999 Jan 15;149(2):177-85.

Infant and child growth and fatness and fat distribution in Guatemalan adults.

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  • 1Department of International Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


To examine whether poor growth in utero or young childhood is associated with adult abdominal fatness in a developing country context, the authors analyzed prospectively collected data on 372 female and 161 male Guatemalans measured as children between 1969 and 1977 and remeasured as adults in 1988-1989 (men and women) and 1991-1994 (women only). Childhood stunting (height-for-age z score) was associated with a lower body mass index and percent body fat in men, while no associations were found in women. In both sexes, however, severely stunted children had significantly greater adult abdominal fatness (waist:hip ratio), once overall fatness and confounders were controlled. The adult waist:hip ratio (x100) was increased by 0.65 (95% confidence interval 0.10 to 1.20) in men and 0.29 (95% confidence interval -0.03 to 0.61) in women for each height-for-age z score less at age three. Migration to urban centers was significantly associated with an even greater waist:hip ratio in severely stunted females (p = 0.03). In a subsample of 137 women, short and thin newborns had significantly greater adult abdominal fatness compared with long and thin or short and fat newborns or children who became stunted postnatally. The adult waist:hip ratio (x100) was increased by 1.58 (95% confidence interval 0.35 to 2.81) for each kilogram less birth weight. The authors conclude that, in countries where maternal and child malnutrition exists alongside rapid economic development and urban migration, abdominal obesity and related chronic diseases are likely to increase.

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