Epidemiology and population health

Trends in height, weight, BMI, skinfolds, and measures of overweight and obesity from 1979 through 1999 among American Indian Youth: The Akwesasne Mohawk



Information on recent changes in overweight, obesity, and adiposity among American Indians is scarce. To assess changes in size and adiposity among American Indian youth, data from two samples of Akwesasne Mohawk youth, were compared.


Both project 1, conducted in 1979 (n = 75) and Project 2, conducted between 1996 and 1999 (n = 206), sampled youth 10–14 years of age from the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation (aka St. Regis) that borders New York state, and Ontario and Quebec provinces. Heights, weights, and skinfold thicknesses were converted to z-scores using CDC reference values. BMI status was calculated in terms of WHO age-specific cutoffs and CDC cutoffs.


z-Scores for heights differed little between projects. The between-project difference in weight z-score is twice the between-project z-score difference for height. Differences among males are larger and more often significant. Triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness are significantly greater in Project 2. The rate of overweight and obesity combined, increased 3.3-fold. In multiple regression analyses with sex, height, and age in the model, project is a significant predictor of weight and skinfolds.


Weight and adiposity have increased substantially from 1979 to 1996–99. Overweight and obesity became significantly more common. Given the increase in adiposity, these youth may be facing significant health risks as adults in terms of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type II diabetes unless weight and adiposity is reduced.

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The authors thank the gracious people of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation for their collaboration in the projects. Financial support for this research was provided by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (#MD003373) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (#ES04913).

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Correspondence to Lawrence M. Schell.

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Schell, L.M., Gallo, M.V., Pfeiffer, S. et al. Trends in height, weight, BMI, skinfolds, and measures of overweight and obesity from 1979 through 1999 among American Indian Youth: The Akwesasne Mohawk. Int J Obes 44, 656–663 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-019-0349-5

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