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Am J Hum Biol. 2011 Sep-Oct;23(5):720-3. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.21201. Epub 2011 Jul 25.

Body fat is differentially related to body mass index in U.S.-born African-American and East African immigrant girls.

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Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55454, USA.



To examine ethnic differences in adiposity at a given body mass index (BMI) in a sample of U.S.-born African-American and East African immigrant adolescent girls.


In a sample of black adolescent girls (n = 79; ages 14-20) we compared measures of adiposity across the range of BMI-for-age among 55 U.S.-born African-American (mean BMI: 30.4; age: 15.4) and 24 East African immigrant girls (mean BMI: 21.8; age: 16.7). Fat and fat-free mass were assessed with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). We used spline regression to examine the distributions of fat mass index and percent body fat across the range of BMI-for-age z-scores.


Compared with African-American girls, East African girls were smaller on all body measures, but appeared to have higher fat mass index and percent body fat at the same BMI-for-age.


Our findings indicate that at a given BMI East African immigrants may have greater adiposity than African-American girls. If corroborated in larger samples, our data suggest that the cardiometabolic risks attendant to elevated adiposity may affect East African girls at a lower BMI than in African-American girls.

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