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Ann Hum Biol. 2012 Sep;39(5):440-7. doi: 10.3109/03014460.2012.704070. Epub 2012 Aug 6.

Pubertal stage and measures of adiposity in British schoolchildren.

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Institute for Clinical Exercise & Health Science, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley ML3 0JB, UK.



Puberty is a critical period in the development of obesity. Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and skin-fold thickness are used generally as estimates of body fat in children and adults.


To identify a marker of adiposity that is independent of pubertal status and determine its relationship to physical fitness in adolescence.


Girls (n = 147) and boys (n = 100) from year 8 in three Welsh schools self-reported Tanner stages. Anthropometric measurements of adiposity were made and aerobic fitness estimated with a 20-metre shuttle-run test.


Children in early and late puberty were of similar chronological age. BMI strongly correlated with height in early puberty in girls (r = 0.366, p < 0.001) and boys (r = 0.594, p < 0.001), but not in late puberty. Waist-to-height ratio adjusted for the effect of height on waist measurements; and correlated with percentage fat mass in early and late puberty in girls (r = 0.865 and r = 0.772, both p < 0.001) and boys (r = 0.868 and r = 0.877, both p < 0.001). Physical fitness score was inversely related to waist-to-height ratio, with similar regression lines in early and late puberty, in girls (r = - 0.545, p < 0.001 and r = - 0.362, p = 0.005) and boys (r = - 0.490, p < 0.001 and r = - 0.400, p = 0.003).


Pubertal status should be taken into account in adjusting weight for height in adolescents. Waist-to-height ratio is a convenient and appropriate measure of adiposity during puberty.

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