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The impact of childhood body mass index on timing of puberty, adult stature and obesity: a follow-up study based on adolescent anthropometry recorded at Christ's Hospital (1936–1964)

Abstract

Objective:

To examine the impact of childhood body mass index (BMI) on timing of puberty, adult stature and obesity.

Design:

A retrospective school-based cohort follow-up study.

Subjects:

A total of 1520 men born between 1927 and 1956 with serial height and weight measurements from the age of 9 to 18, followed up in adulthood at a mean age of 63 years.

Measurements:

Prepubertal (child) BMI; age at peak height velocity (APHV); adult leg length, waist and hip circumference (self-reported), and height and weight (measured).

Results:

Boys with a higher childhood BMI tended to have an earlier puberty (per s.d. increase in child BMI: −0.31 years, 95% confidence interval (CI): −0.23 to −0.39, P<0.001). Childhood BMI correlated strongly and positively with adult adiposity, as measured by BMI (1.24 kg/m2, 95% CI: 1.04–1.45, P<0.001), waist (1.94 cm, 95% CI: 1.50–2.37, P<0.001) and hip (1.91 cm, 95% CI: 1.55–2.28, P<0.001). It correlated inversely with leg length (−0.40 cm, 95% CI: −0.68 to −0.12, P=0.005), but not significantly with height or trunk length. Boys with a later puberty tended to be taller (per s.d. increase in APHV: 0.57 cm, 95% CI: 0.17–0.97, P=0.006) and less adipose as adults (−0.55 kg/m2, 95% CI: −0.33 to −0.77, P<0.001).

Conclusion:

The long-term consequences of childhood obesity into adulthood are well known, but the potential impact on early pubertal maturation is less well appreciated. The factors that contribute to the onset and persistence of childhood obesity require more public health focus.

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Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the University of Bristol, Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council for different elements of the cohort follow-up, Rosemary Currer and Caroline King for research secretarial support to the study, and Pete Shiarly for his development of the study database. In particular, we thank Christ's Hospital for permitting access to this unique resource and all Old Blues that participated.

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Sandhu, J., Ben-Shlomo, Y., Cole, T. et al. The impact of childhood body mass index on timing of puberty, adult stature and obesity: a follow-up study based on adolescent anthropometry recorded at Christ's Hospital (1936–1964). Int J Obes 30, 14–22 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803156

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803156

Keywords

  • longitudinal
  • age at peak height velocity
  • puberty
  • height
  • body mass index

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