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Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Nov;66(5):1094-101.

Body mass index and height from childhood to adulthood in the 1958 British born cohort.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom.


The purpose of this study was to assess relations among height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) at different ages from childhood to adulthood, and to examine long-term relations among timing of puberty, height, and BMI. Longitudinal data from the 1958 British birth cohort (all children born between March 3rd and 9th, 1958) were used. Height and weight were measured at ages 7, 11, 16, 23 (self-reported), and 33 y; pubertal status was assessed at ages 11 and 16 y. Data for 5700 females and 5512 males were analyzed. Adult height was well predicted from childhood, with strong correlations (r = 0.7 for both sexes) between height at ages 7 and 33 y. Correlations for BMI were weaker, especially between childhood and early adulthood (r = 0.33 for males and 0.37 for females, ages 7 and 33 y), although they increased with increasing age. Although the fattest children had the highest risks of adult obesity, most obese adults had not been fat at earlier ages: only 17% and 18% of obese 33-y-old men and women, respectively, had been fat at age 7 y. A strong and evenly graded association was found between timing of puberty and BMI, with higher mean BMIs for the earlier maturers at ages 7-33 y. The moderate prediction of adult BMI in this large and unselected sample suggests that although the prevention of childhood fatness may be desirable, most obese adults could not be identified from their childhood BMI, and hence, preventive strategies need to be population-based.

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