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PLoS One. 2018 Jun 14;13(6):e0197570. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197570. eCollection 2018.

Body mass index and waist circumference in early adulthood are associated with thoracolumbar spine shape at age 60-64: The Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development.

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Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Medicine, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.
MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, London, United Kingdom.
Medicines Monitoring Unit (MEMO), Division of Molecular & Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom.
Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Manchester, United Kingdom.


This study investigated associations between measures of adiposity from age 36 and spine shape at 60-64 years. Thoracolumbar spine shape was characterised using statistical shape modelling on lateral dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry images of the spine from 1529 participants of the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, acquired at age 60-64. Associations of spine shape modes with: 1) contemporaneous measures of total and central adiposity (body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC)) and body composition (android:gynoid fat mass ratio and lean and fat mass indices, calculated as whole body (excluding the head) lean or fat mass (kg) divided by height2 (m)2); 2) changes in total and central adiposity between age 36 and 60-64 and 3) age at onset of overweight, were tested using linear regression models. Four modes described 79% of the total variance in spine shape. In men, greater lean mass index was associated with a larger lordosis whereas greater fat mass index was associated with straighter spines. Greater current BMI was associated with a more uneven curvature in men and with larger anterior-posterior (a-p) vertebral diameters in both sexes. Greater WC and fat mass index were also associated with a-p diameter in both sexes. There was no clear evidence that gains in BMI and WC during earlier stages of adulthood were associated with spine shape but younger onset of overweight was associated with a more uneven spine and greater a-p diameter. In conclusion, sagittal spine shapes had different associations with total and central adiposity; earlier onset of overweight and prior measures of WC were particularly important.

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