Ethnic Differences in Subcutaneous Adiposity and Waist Girth in Children and Adolescents




The purpose of this study was to examine ethnic differences in adiposity as measured by sum of skinfolds (SKF) and waist circumference (WC) in children and adolescents, after statistical adjustment for the BMI and age. A cross sectional sample of 3,218 (55% white, 49% male) children and adolescents aged 5–18 years who participated in the Bogalusa Heart Study (1992–1994) were included in these analyses. Sex-specific ANOVAs, adjusted for BMI and age, for each 2-year age group compared measures of adiposity (SKF and WC) between ethnic groups. No significant differences in the proportions of children and adolescents who were overweight and obese by ethnicity or sex were found. Mean SKF in normal weight (P < 0.0001) and overweight (P < 0.0001) categories was higher for white than black children of both sexes. Across most age categories, white boys and girls had significantly higher SKF than black boys and girls, respectively (P ≤ 0.05). Across most age categories, white boys had significantly higher WC than black boys (P ≤ 0.05) with no difference in the girls, when adjusted for BMI and age. Measures of adiposity in childhood and adolescence were significantly higher in white children compared to black children, when adjusted for BMI and age. Throughout childhood and adolescence, white boys and girls had higher SKF and white boys had higher WC. Differences in adiposity between ethnic groups should be considered in disease risk assessment and stratification as they are observed even for a given BMI level.