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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;87(5):2164-70.

Sex and race differences in fat distribution among Asian, African-American, and Caucasian prepubertal children.

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Obesity Research Center, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, Institute of Human Nutrition, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10025, USA.


Sexual dimorphism in fat distribution is thought to emerge during puberty. Truncal or android body fat distribution is characteristic of adult males but is also recognized as a human cardiovascular risk factor. Race differences in truncal fat are clearly evident in adults and have been described in prepubertal children but not between Asians and other race groups. The aim of this study in African-American, Asian, and Caucasian prepubertal children was to evaluate sex differences and race differences in body fat distribution. Analysis of covariance was used to explore fat distribution in 358 prepubertal children (176 girls and 182 boys; 143 Asians, 95 African-Americans, and 120 Caucasians), measured by skinfold thickness and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in a cross-sectional study. Extremity and gynoid fat masses were evaluated after adjustment for trunk or android fat, respectively, and for covariates including age, weight, height, and interactions. In Asian children, sex differences were present in models for gynoid fat by DXA only (P < 0.001), with girls having greater gynoid fat than boys. In African-American and Caucasian children, sex differences were present in models for extremity and gynoid fat masses, measured by both methods. Among girls, Asians had generally lower adjusted extremity and gynoid fat than Caucasians and African-Americans. Among boys, Asians had lower adjusted extremity fat by DXA than Caucasians (P < 0.01) but greater gynoid fat by skinfolds than African-Americans (P < 0.01). This study of prepubertal children demonstrates that: 1) sex differences in body fat distribution are present in prepubertal children but that the specific characteristics for Asians differ from African-Americans and Caucasians, and 2) differences in body fat distribution in Asian children, compared with African-Americans and Caucasians, are present but vary by sex. This comparison of African-American, Asian, and Caucasian prepubertal children suggests phenotypic differences. Additional studies are needed to explore the metabolic and health risk implications of these findings.

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