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Am J Hum Biol. 2011 Sep-Oct;23(5):635-41. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.21191. Epub 2011 May 31.

Growing into obesity: patterns of height growth in those who become normal weight, overweight, or obese as young adults.

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Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, School of Medicine, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414, USA.



To study whether patterns of height growth differ by adult obesity status, and determine the contribution of subcutaneous fatness as an explanatory variable for any differences.


A multicenter, prospective longitudinal cohort assessed in 3rd grade (8.8 years), 5th grade (11.1 years), 8th grade (14.1 years), and 12th grade (18.3 years). Exposures were young adult obesity status classified by CDC adult BMI categories at 12th grade. Skinfolds were measured in third, fifth, and eighth grades. Outcome was mean height (cm) at the four measurements using repeated-measures ANCOVA for young adult obesity status, and height increments between grades by adult obesity status in sequential models including initial height and, secondarily, initial skinfolds.


Adjusted for age, and race/ethnicity, young adult obesity status explained a small, but statistically significant amount of height growth among both females and males within each of the three intervals. Compared with normal weight young adults, overweight or obese young adults stood taller in childhood, but had relatively less growth in height throughout the teenage years. There was no association between adult height and weight status. Skinfolds explained only a small amount of the height patterns in the three weight groups.


Childhood and adolescent height growth patterns differ between those who become young adults who are normal weight and those who become overweight or obese. Since differences in fatness explain only a small amount of these height growth patterns, research is needed to identify other determinants.

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