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Associations between body mass index and body composition measures in a birth cohort

Abstract

Background

Associations among body composition measures have been limited to cross-sectional analyses of different subjects. We identified cross-sectional relationships between body mass index (BMI) and other body composition measures and predicted body composition measures from BMI throughout childhood and adolescence.

Methods

BMI was calculated and % body fat (%BF), fat mass index (FMI), and fat-free mass index (FFMI) were measured using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry at ages 5, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 years in a birth cohort (n = 629). Sex-specific body composition measures were calculated for BMI-for-age percentiles; associations between BMI and body composition measures were characterized; and body composition measures were predicted from BMI.

Results

%BF, FMI, and FFMI generally increased with BMI-for-age percentiles at each age. Correlations between BMI and %BF or FMI were generally higher at BMI-for-age percentiles ≥95% than for lower BMI-for-age percentiles. Correlations between BMI and FFMI were generally higher for participants at very low and very high BMI-for-age percentiles than at moderate BMI-for-age percentiles. Age- and sex-specific predictions from BMI are provided for %BF, FM, and FFMI.

Conclusions

Sex-specific body composition measures throughout childhood and adolescence are presented. BMI is a better indicator of adiposity at higher than at lower BMI values.

Impact

  • Sex-specific body composition measures throughout childhood and adolescence are described.

  • % BF, FMI, and FFMI generally increased with BMI-for-age percentiles for both sexes throughout childhood and adolescence.

  • BMI is a better indicator of adiposity at higher BMI levels than at lower BMI values throughout childhood and adolescence.

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Fig. 1: Plot of %BF expected value versus BMI from generalized additive model for males, at each of the target ages.
Fig. 2: Plot of %BF expected value versus BMI from generalized additive model for females, at each of the target ages.
Fig. 3: Plot of FMI expected value versus BMI from generalized additive model for males, at each of the target ages.
Fig. 4: Plot of FMI expected value versus BMI from generalized additive model for females, at each of the target ages.
Fig. 5: Plot of FFMI expected value versus BMI from generalized additive model for males, at each of the target ages.
Fig. 6: Plot of FFMI expected value versus BMI from generalized additive model for females, at each of the target ages.

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Acknowledgements

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R03-DE023784, R01-DE12101, R01-DE09551, UL1-RR024979, UL1-TR000442, UL1-TR001013, M01-RR00059), The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, and Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation.

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Authors

Contributions

T.A.M. conceptualized and designed the study, interpreted the results, drafted the initial manuscript, and reviewed and revised the manuscript. A.M.C. designed and conducted the data analyses, interpreted the results, drafted the initial manuscript, and reviewed and revised the manuscript. J.E.C. designed the data analyses, interpreted the results, and reviewed and revised the manuscript. J.J.W. and S.M.L. designed the data collection instruments, collected data, and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be held accountable for all aspects of the work.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Teresa A. Marshall.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Consent statement

All components of the IFS and IBDS were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Iowa. Written informed consent was obtained from mothers at the time of their child’s birth and from parents at clinic visits. Written assent was obtained from children beginning at age 13 years.

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Marshall, T.A., Curtis, A.M., Cavanaugh, J.E. et al. Associations between body mass index and body composition measures in a birth cohort. Pediatr Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-021-01562-y

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