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Keywords:

  • growth stunting;
  • adult obesity;
  • secular trend;
  • adiposity rebound;
  • South Pacific

Abstract

This set of cross-sectional and longitudinal data from children and young adults in certain Bougainville and Solomon Islands populations undergoing rapid modernization during the period 1966–1986 reveals very different responses to essentially the same stimuli—the introduction and widespread availability of western dietary items and reductions in habitual activity. Our analyses of over 2,000 children and young adults first measured in 1966–1972, with follow-up surveys in 1968–1970 and 1985–1986, show changes in overweight/obesity in these communities have their onset around puberty, and are not related to differences in childhood growth stunting. The prevalence of overweight and obesity increased substantially during the period of this study among young adults, particularly women, and in groups with more Polynesian affinities, where the frequency of overweight (BMI ≥ 25) tripled over this 20-year interval. However, the BMI of the more Papuan groups on Bougainville remained remarkably stable, even though they were close to the epicenter of modernization during this period, the Bougainville Copper Mine. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.