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Abstract

This study investigated whether historical proxies for poor nutrition early in life were associated with differences in body composition and height among adult Hmong refugees. Life history and anthropometric data were collected from a sample of 279 Hmong aged 18–51 years who were born in Laos or Thailand and resettled in French Guiana or the United States following the Second Indochina War. Overall, 30.5% were born in a war zone in Laos, while 38.8% were displaced as infants; these individuals were presumed to have experienced malnutrition in the perinatal and infant periods, respectively. Resettlement in urban areas in the US was utilized as a proxy for greater exposure to excessive energy balance, compared with Hmong who resettled in rural areas in French Guiana. In multiple linear regression models, being displaced in infancy was negatively associated with height after controlling for confounders, while being born in a war zone was associated with higher adiposity and centralized body fat distribution. Resettlement in the US was associated with a higher centralization of subcutaneous fat, but not overall adiposity. These findings may be of interest to the study of the developmental origins of obesity, in a population that has undergone early malnutrition followed by migration and rapid nutritional transition. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.