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Anat Cell Biol. 2018 Mar;51(1):31-40. doi: 10.5115/acb.2018.51.1.31. Epub 2018 Mar 28.

Nutrition and growth: assessing the impact of regional nutritional intake on childhood development and metacarpal parameters.

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Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia.


Measuring skeletal development throughout juvenile growth can provide a greater understanding into the health, hormonal function and genetics of children. The metacarpals have been of interest for their potential to provide insights into healthy juvenile skeletal development. This study investigated the growth patterns of developing females from isolated communities who had varied diets. Anthropometrical measurements and hand-wrist X-rays were taken of 353 juvenile females from three populations: Pari Coastal Village and Bundi Highlands Village, Papua New Guinea (PNG); and Brisbane, Australia between 1968 to 1983. Radiographs were digitized, and the length and width of the second and third metacarpals compared to each subject's height and weight. As subject heights increased, metacarpal length and width increased. However, stature and second metacarpal length indicated the strongest correlation (P<0.01), compared to third metacarpal length (P<0.01) or width. From 11 to 13 years of age, Brisbane subjects were significantly heavier and taller in comparison to subjects from PNG, and coastal females were heavier and taller than the highland females. A prominent difference between the two PNG populations was the regional intake of protein in their diets. The second metacarpal presents particularly accurate measurements when determining the height or development of a child. Nutritional intake appears to have a major influence normal childhood growth, with a potential for protein deficiency to strongly inhibit growth. Any delayed growth is particularly evident in the child's stature, as well as in the development of the metacarpal long bones of the hand.


Juvenile development; Metacarpal dimensions; Radiogrammetry; Radiographs; Reference values; Skeletal growth

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