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Keywords:

  • Body composition;
  • body mass index;
  • childhood obesity;
  • waist circumference

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
What is already known about this subject
  • Adolescence is an important period of physiological growth.
  • Loss of central adiposity with preservation of lean mass during weight loss is optimal.
  • There are discrepancies in the literature concerning changes in lean mass during weight loss in adolescents.
What this study adds
  • This study provides information of regional and total body composition change in adolescents during weight loss.
  • This study controls for important factors that impact body composition in growing adolescents such as age, sex, height, baseline weight and race.
  • This study provides correlations of changes in waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) with total and trunk fat mass during weight loss in adolescents.

Summary

Background

Changes in body composition during weight loss among obese adolescents are poorly understood. This study characterized the composition of weight loss and its association with changes in waist circumference (WC) in obese adolescents.

Methods

Total (Tot), trunk (Tr) and appendicular (Ap) fat mass (FM) and lean mass (LM) were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry in 61 obese adolescents (40 girls) who participated in a randomized controlled weight loss trial. Changes in body composition were assessed at 0, 6 and 12 months using mixed-effects regression models. Correlation analysis of change in WC and total and regional compartments of FM and LM were assessed.

Results

Weight loss for adolescents was 90.3% FM and 15.9% LM at 0–6 months, and 98.2% FM and 7% LM at 0–12 months. At 12 months, girls lost 2.67 kg more TotFM than boys in models adjusted for height, age, race and baseline weight. Boys gained LM in all compartments in all models. At 12 months, girls lost TotLM (2.23 ± 0.74, P < 0.004) and ApLM (0.69 ± 0.31, P = 0.03) and gained TrLM (0.37 ± 0.35, P = 0.29). The percentage LM, increased for boys and girls in all models. TotFM was correlated with body mass index (BMI) change with TotFM (R = 0.70–0.91, P = 0.001) and WC change (R = 0.53–0.55, P < 0.001).

Conclusions

Weight loss in obese adolescents during a weight loss trial using lifestyle management and sibutramine was primarily from trunk FM. Although absolute LM increased in boys and decreased in girls, the percentage of weight that is LM increased for both boys and girls. Changes in BMI were more reflective of changes in FM than changes in WC.


Abbreviations
ApFM

appendicular fat mass

ApLM

appendicular lean mass

BMC

bone mineral content

BMI

body mass index

DXA

dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

TotFM

total fat mass

TotLM

total lean mass

TrFM

trunk fat mass

TrLM

trunk lean mass

WC

waist circumference

Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Obesity in adolescents has reached epidemic proportions at 16.9% in the USA and is associated with many comorbidities [1]. The distribution of adipose tissue is an independent risk factor for cardiometabolic complications of obesity [2-4]. Having a preferential loss of trunk fat mass (central adiposity) over appendicular mass (arms and legs) is metabolically more favourable [5]. The goal of weight reduction is not only to lose overall body mass and fat mass (FM), but to also lose central adiposity and to preserve or increase lean mass (LM). Changes in body mass index (BMI) or BMI z-score, which are used to categorize obesity risk, do not describe which tissue compartment is changing. The changes in tissue compartments (lean vs. fat) and their distribution (trunk vs. arms and legs) during the acute (0–6 months) and maintenance phases of weight loss (12 months) in adolescents has not been studied.

Adolescence is an important time of physical development because of hormonal changes, sexual maturation and linear growth, all of which may potentially affect body composition [6]. Although prior work has shown that bone mineral content (BMC) is preserved [7], the effects of weight loss on FM and LM in obese adolescents are not well understood. The effect of baseline weight on changes in body composition in adolescents is also an area in need of further study.

Waist circumference (WC) is used as an indicator of central adiposity and increased cardiovascular risk [8]. Arm circumference is a widely used nutritional indicator that predicts adiposity in children and adolescents [9]. The determination of the correlation of changes of these simple anthropometric measurements to changes in lean and fat tissue compartments adds to the clinical relevance of these measurements.

The primary objectives of this study were to assess the changes in total and regional body composition after a 12-month outpatient multidisciplinary weight loss programme in obese adolescents, and to examine the correlation of change in WC with BMI, BMI z-score, weight, total FM, total LM, trunk FM, trunk LM, appendicular FM and appendicular LM.

Methods and procedures

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

This is an observational study of body composition in obese adolescents taking part in a randomized controlled trial of weight loss [10]. A detailed description of the trial methods and results has been provided elsewhere [10]. Briefly, boys and post-menarcheal girls aged 13–17 years were eligible if their BMI (kg m−2) was between 32 and 44, and if they had no significant medical or psychiatric condition. The study tested the effectiveness of sibutramine in conjunction with a comprehensive, family-based, behavioural weight control programme in a placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. All subjects were included in a comprehensive weight loss programme that included 13 weekly sessions, followed by nine bi-weekly group sessions and three monthly group sessions, for a total of 25 group sessions over 12 months. The subjects were instructed to consume a 1200–1500 kcal d−1 balanced diet and prescribed an eventual goal of walking (or engaging in similar aerobic activities) for 120 min or more per week. Participants kept daily eating and activity logs that they submitted at each session. During the first 6-month period, half of the participants were randomized to escalating doses of sibutramine up to 15 mg d−1 and the other half to a matching placebo. Dosage was decreased or medication interrupted if significant increases in blood pressure occurred. For the second 6-month period, all subjects received the active drug in an open-label trial in combination with a weight loss programme.

Because we were only interested in study subjects who lost weight, longitudinal analyses were restricted to study subjects who completed the 12-month assessment. Subjects who do not complete weight loss trials are often those subjects who are not successful in their weight loss [11]. While this could potentially bias the randomized trial, which compared two treatment groups, it is not relevant to this examination of the composition of weight loss. Therefore, restriction to completers was a justifiable approach in this case, and data from the baseline, 6 months and 12 months visits were analyzed.

Body weight was measured to the nearest 0.1 kg using a digital electronic scale (Seca, Munich, Germany), and stature to the nearest 0.1 cm using a stadiometer (Holtain, Crymych, UK) and BMI was calculated. Weight, height and BMI were converted to age- and sex-specific z-scores based on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reference growth charts [12]. WC (0.1 cm) at the level of the umbilicus was measured using a flexible measuring tape [13].

Outcome measures

FM (kg) and LM (kg), were estimated from whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA; QDR2000, Hologic, Bedford, MA, USA) with a fan beam densitometer. Body regions (arms, legs, trunk and head) were delineated in the scan images analysis by the DXA operator according to manufacturer guidelines. All subjects were measured on the same machine using standard positioning techniques. Quality control scans were performed daily using a simulated L1-L4 spine of hydroxyapatite encased in resin. There was no significant change or drift in phantom scan results, and the coefficient of variation (% CV) was less than 1% (0.45%). A step phantom was scanned with each whole-body scan, but a whole-body phantom for longitudinal quality control was not available at that time.

The primary outcome measures were the change in total FM (TotFM), trunk FM (TrFM), and appendicular (arms and legs) FM (ApFM; kg), total LM (TotLM), trunk LM (TrLM), and appendicular LM (ApLM; kg) at 0–6 months, 6–12 months and 0–12 months. The LM measures did not include bone mass. Change in WC (cm) was a secondary outcome measure. Measurements were obtained between May 1999 and July 2002 at baseline, 6 months and 12 months. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

African–Americans have more LM and BMC than Caucasians [14]; thus, the sample was divided into African–American vs. non-African–American participants. There are differences in the rate of growth and the distribution of LM and FM by age, pubertal status and sex [15]. Therefore, interactions of sex, age, height and African ancestry with time were tested and only significant interactions were included in the final model. Analyses were also adjusted for age, sex, height and the interaction of sex with time to account for different patterns of change in males vs. females. All children in this analysis were Tanner IV or above. Tanner staging was assessed using a validated adolescent self-assessment tool [16].

Statistical analyses

Descriptive analyses were conducted, including graphical displays of data, as appropriate. Normality of the distribution was assessed graphically and by the Kolmogorov–Smirnov test. Baseline characteristics of subjects who completed the study compared to subjects who did not complete the study are described elsewhere [10]. To assess changes in total, trunk and appendicular FM and LM, mixed effects longitudinal regression analysis was used. In these models, sex was the between-subject factor, and time and changes at 6 months and 12 months were the within-subject factors. Mixed-model analyses allows for the incorporation of proper time trends (e.g. non-linear) and of a variance–covariance structure that accounts for the correlation between repeated measures. The mixed-model results are summarized with mean and SE by sex and time. A significant sex-by-time interaction indicates that, for the given outcome measure, changes from baseline differ significantly between the two sexes. In addition to the sex-by-time interaction, the age, height, baseline weight and African ancestry were entered into the model as covariates.

The unadjusted analyses characterized changes from 0 to 6 months, 6–12 months and 0–12 months in each of the following variables: TotFM, TrFM, ApFM, TotLM, TrLM, ApLM, percent LM, percent FM, WC with visit and the interaction of sex by time. The above model was adjusted for the following covariates: age, height, African ancestry and baseline weight. Spearman correlations were computed to assess associations among changes in WC with TotFM, TrFM, ApFM, TotLM, TrLM and ApLM.

Mixed-model analyses were conducted utilizing SAS statistical software (version 9.1; SAS Institute, Cary, NC, USA). Spearman correlations were conducted utilizing STATA version 11.0 (StataCorp, College Station, TX, USA). For all analyses, an α level of 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Among the 89 adolescents enrolled and measured at baseline, 82 were randomized in the weight loss trial, and 61 completed the assessment. As reported previously [10], the characteristics of the subjects who completed the study did not differ at baseline from the characteristics of the subjects who did not complete the study. The baseline characteristics for those who completed the study are described in Table 1. The BMI z-score for boys was significantly higher than for girls at baseline. Although there were more girls than boys, there was a higher percentage of boys of African ancestry than girls of African ancestry. There were no significant differences in body composition between sexes at baseline. There was no difference in change in LM or FM in adolescent subjects that received the drug or placebo. That is, drug × sex × visit was not a significant interaction factor in the association of change in FM and LM with change in weight; TotFM (P = 0.59), pctTotFM (P = 0.82), TotLM (P = 0.38), pctTotLM (P = 0.83), TrLM (P = 0.26), TrFM (0.95), ApFM (P = 0.16, ApLM (0.47). There was a significant difference in weight loss at baseline and 6 months in adolescents who received sibutramine or placebo, but there were no significant differences in body composition.

Table 1. Baseline characteristics in adolescents (n = 61)
 Boys (n = 21) Girls (n = 40)P-value
Percent or mean ± SD
  1. aTotFM, total fat mass; bTotFM%, percentage total mass that is fat; cTotLM, total lean mass; dTotLM%, percentage total mass that is lean; eTrFM, trunk fat mass; fTrFM%, percentage trunk mass that is fat; gTrLM, trunk lean mass; hTrLM%, percentage trunk mass that is lean; iApFM, appendicular fat mass; jApFM%, percentage appendicular mass that is fat; kApLM, appendicular (leg + arm) lean mass; lApLM%, percentage appendicular mass that is lean.

Age (years)14.1 ± 1.614.6 ± 1.00.13
Non-black, %53810.03*
Weight (kg)96.3 ± 17.8101.25 ± 14.900.25
Height (cm)164.0 ± 11.1164.3 ± 6.90.87
BMI (kg m−2)35.5 ± 3.137.4 ± 4.00.07
BMI z-score2.47 ± 0.172.36 ± 0.190.03*
TotFMa (kg)47.7 ± 11.651.3 ± 10.90.23
TotFM%b49.6 ± 6.650.6 ± 5.40.53
TotLMc (kg)46.0 ± 10.147.2 ± 7.40.61
TotLM%d48.2 ± 6.646.9 ± 5.70.44
TrFMe (kg)21.8 ± 6.424.3 ± 5.30.11
TrFM%f49.0 ± 7.351.6 ± 5.90.13
TrLMg (kg)21.8 ± 5.221.8 ± 3.50.99
TrLM%h49.8 ± 7.146.9 ± 5.80.09
Waist circumference (cm)93.9 ± 44.0101.2 ± 28.30.43
ApFMi (kg)24.8 ± 5.925.9 ± 6.40.52
ApFM%j53.1 ± 7.652.7 ± 6.20.83
ApLMk (kg)20.6 ± 4.821.6 ± 4.00.36
ApLM%l44.2 ± 7.244.5 ± 6.00.86
Ratio TrLM/ApLM (kg)1.06 ± 0.101.06 ± 0.000.17
Ratio TrFM/ApFM (kg)0.88 ± 0.20.96 ± 0.180.11
Ratio TrLM/TotLM (kg)0.47 ± 0.00.46 ± 0.00.17
Ratio TrFM/TotFM (kg)0.45 ± 0.00.47 ± 0.00.07
Drug1.48 ± 0.511.53 ± 0.510.72

Body composition

Adolescents reduced their BMI (3.22 ± 0.028 kg m−2), BMI z-score (0.33 ± 0.02 SD), weight (5.9 ± 0.83 kg) and FM (−8.0 ± 0.68 kg) over 12 months (P < 0.001) in the unadjusted analysis and after adjusting for important growth-related covariates. Figure 1 depicts the unadjusted change in total, trunk and ApFM and LM in boys and girls at 0–6 months, 6–12 months and 0–12 months. Table 2 depicts the changes in FM and LM and change in percent FM and percent LM in all of the compartments in the unadjusted models and the adjusted model for age, height and African ancestry, and baseline weight.

figure

Figure 1. Compartment change in absolute and percent fat mass (FM) and lean mass (LM).

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Table 2. Total and regional changes in body composition in 61 adolescents who completed a 12-month comprehensive weight loss programme
 BoysGirls
n = 21n = 40
Δ0–6 monthsΔ6–12 monthsΔ0–12 monthsΔ0–6 monthsΔ6–12 monthsΔ0–12 months
  1. *Significant difference between sexes, bold = significant difference between visits within a sex.

  2. aTotFM, total fat mass; bTotFM%, percentage total mass that is fat; cTotLM, total lean mass; dTotLM%, percentage total mass that is lean; eTrFM, trunk fat mass; fTrFM%, percentage trunk mass that is fat; gTrLM, trunk lean mass; hTrLM%, percentage trunk mass that is lean; iApFM, appendicular fat mass; jApFM%, percentage appendicular mass that is fat; kApLM, appendicular (leg + arm) lean mass; lApLM%, percentage appendicular mass that is lean.

Weight (kg)      
Unadjusted1.22 (11.80)0.43 (5.88)1.65 (13.60)6.29 (7.27)1.99 (5.52)8.30 (9.99)
aTotFM (kg)      
Unadjusted4.14 (1.60)3.42 (1.04)7.56 (2.09)5.79 (1.17)2.38 (0.75)8.17 (1.50)
Adjusted−1.97 (1.84)−1.84 (1.11)−3.81 (2.39)5.02 (1.31)−1.47 (0.81)6.48 (1.71)
bTotFM%      
Unadjusted3.54 (0.86)3.94 (0.76)7.47 (1.34)*2.72 (0.62)2.00 (0.55)4.72 (0.97)
Adjusted−1.79 (1.05)4.45 (1.59)2.66 (0.83)2.11 (0.74)2.66 (0.82)3.39 (1.14)
cTotLM (kg)      
Unadjusted+2.44 (0.62)+3.13 (0.61)+5.56 (0.87)1.20 (0.45)+0.62 (0.44)−0.58 (0.62)
Adjusted−0.09 (0.63)+1.31(0.67)*+1.22 (0.99)1.94 (0.45)−0.30 (0.51)*2.23 (0.74)
dTotLM%      
Unadjusted+3.33 (0.83)+3.78 (0.74)+7.12 (1.29)+2.49 (0.60)+1.90 (0.54)+4.39 (0.93)
Adjusted+1.76 (1.00)+2.64 (0.81)+4.40 (1.53)+1.95 (0.71)+1.26 (0.60)+3.21 (1.10)
eTrFM (kg)      
Unadjusted1.87 (0.87)1.92 (0.57)3.79 (1.12)2.90 (0.63)1.57 (0.42)4.47 (0.80)
Adjusted−1.22 (0.94)*1.44 (0.60)2.66 (1.24)*2.62 (0.68)*1.24 (0.44)3.86 (0.89)*
fTrFM%      
Unadjusted3.33 (1.16)4.84 (1.03)8.20 (1.70)3.40 (0.84)2.96 (0.75)6.37 (1.24)
Adjusted−1.39 (1.35)3.45 (1.09)4.85 (1.96)2.86 (0.96)2.28 (0.80)5.15 (1.40)
gTrLM (kg)      
Unadjusted+0.97 (0.30)+1.69 (0.39)*+2.66 (0.48)−0.21 (0.22)+0.58 (0.28)+0.37 (0.35)
Adjusted−0.29 (0.33)+0.79 (0.41)+0.50 (0.55)−0.46 (0.24)+0.22 (0.31)−0.23 (0.41)
hTrLM%      
Unadjusted+3.25 (0.83)+2.91 (0.74)+6.17 (1.21)+3.16 (1.14)+4.72 (1.02)+7.88 (1.68)
Adjusted+2.76 (0.94)+2.29 (0.79)+5.05 (1.38)+1.33 (1.33)+3.41 (1.08)+4.74 (1.93)
Waist circumference (cm)
Unadjusted−2.83 (2.19)−1.09 (1.47)−3.91 (2.53)5.62 (1.48)−1.89 (1.05)7.52 (1.75)
Adjusted+7.52 (9.90)−3.80 (7.76)+3.73 (7.75)−2.43 (7.13)13.10 (5.64)−15.53 (9.23)
iApFM (kg)      
Unadjusted2.22 (0.77)1.49 (0.51)3.71 (1.00)2.82 (0.56)0.74 (0.37)3.56 (0.72)*
Adjusted−1.20 (0.91)*−0.74 (0.57)*−1.94 (1.22)*2.48 (0.64)*0.34 (0.43)*2.83 (0.88)*
jApFM%      
Unadjusted−4.05 (0.73)−3.53 (0.69)−7.58 (1.17)−2.20 (0.53)−1.31 (0.50)−3.51 (0.85)
Adjusted2.55 (0.92)2.42 (0.77)4.97 (1.45)1.56 (0.65)−0.58 (0.58)2.14 (1.07)
kApLM (kg)      
Unadjusted+1.51 (0.36)+1.43 (0.29)+2.94 (0.43)0.86 (0.26)+0.17 (0.21)0.69 (0.31)
Adjusted+0.32 (0.36)+0.57 (0.33)*+0.89 (0.50)*1.25 (0.26)−0.30 (0.25)*1.55 (0.38)*
lApLM%      
Unadjusted+3.85 (0.70)+3.37 (0.67)+7.22 (1.12)+1.97 (0.51)+1.22 (0.48)+3.19 (0.81)
Adjusted+2.53 (0.88)+2.39 (0.75)+4.91 (1.40)+1.38 (0.62)+0.56 (0.57)+1.95 (1.03)

Total body composition change

Weight loss was predominantly accounted for by change in FM for boys and girls even when adjusting for height, age and race (P < 0.001; Table 2). In the unadjusted model, the percent of weight loss due to FM for girls was 51% at 6 months, and 79.5% at 12 months. For boys, the percent of weight loss due to FM was 80.7% at 6 months and 100% at 12 months (Fig. 1). Boys lost more TotFM and TotFM% in the unadjusted model (Fig. 1). However, when further adjusted for height, age, African ancestry and baseline weight, girls lost more TotFM and TotFM% (P < 0.001) than boys. (Table 2)

Overall, boys gained TotLM (model 1, P = 0.17), but the gain was not statistically significant in the adjusted models 2 (P = 0.32) and 3 (P = 0.06). Conversely, girls lost TotLM between visits, and although this was not significant in the unadjusted analyses (P = 0.07), the TotLM loss became significant in the adjusted model (P = 0.004; Table 2). The TotLM% increased equally for boys and girls in all models.

Regional body composition change

The change in percent TrFM accounts for 54.7% (95% CI [0.48–0.62]) while the change in percent ApFM accounts for 45.0% (95% CI [0.38–0.51]) of total change in FM (P < 0.001). There was a significant decrease in TrFM and TrFM% for boys and girls in all models (Fig. 1). The change in TrFM and TrFM% was significantly greater for girls (P = 0.003) in the adjusted model (Table 2). Similar to TotLM, boys gained TrLM in all models and girls lost TrLM; however, there was no statistical difference between sexes. TrLM percent increased in both sexes in all models.

Boys and girls lost ApFM. There was no difference of ApFM% between boys and girls in either model. Boys gained ApLM but this was only statistically significant in the unadjusted model 1 (P < 0.001; Fig. 1). Although girls lost ApLM at each time point, there was no statistical difference between boys and girls (P > 0.1). Both boys and girls gained ApLM% in the unadjusted analysis, but only boys had a significant gain in ApLM percent (P = 0.001) in the adjusted model.

WC was reduced in all models for boys and girls, although this was not statistically significant. There was no difference between boys and girls in the change in WC. (Table 2)

Correlation analyses

Changes in weight were highly correlated with changes in TotFM (0.80–0.90), TrFM (0.72–0.87) and ApFM (0.78–0.89). Changes in BMI were moderate highly correlated with changes in TotFM (0.78–0.89), TrFM (0.70–0.88) and ApFM (0.80–0.93) (Fig. 2). Changes in WC were moderately correlated with changes in TotFM (0.53–0.55), TrFM (0.47–0.51) and ApFM (0.53–0.58) (Fig. 2). Changes in weight were moderately correlated with changes in TotLM (0.45–0.57), TrLM (0.27–0.44) and ApLM (0.51–0.61). Changes in BMI had a low-moderate correlation with changes in TotLM (0.35–0.41), TrLM (0.19–0.28) and ApLM (0.41–0.45). Changes in WC had a low correlation with changes in TotLM (0.18–0.33), TrLM (−0.02–0.22) and ApLM (0.30–0.42).

figure

Figure 2. Correlation of changes in BMI and waist circumference to changes in total fat mass and trunk fat mass.

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Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

The body composition of weight loss in adolescents is complex and is varied between boys and girls. The objective of this study was to determine the body composition of weight loss using DXA during the acute (0–6 months) and maintenance phase (12 months) of weight loss in adolescents enrolled in an outpatient weight loss intervention study lasting 12 months. Weight loss in adolescents was found to be primarily from FM and mostly from trunk FM at 6 months (an acute weight loss) and 12 months (a maintenance phase). Unlike girls, the change in kg of total FM is greater than change in kg weight (or total mass) in boys. (Table 2) Although at a single time point, body compartments add up to total mass or weight. The absolute change in FM for boys exceeded the change in weight at 6 months and 12 months. This was true for both weight on the scale and total mass calculated with DXA. Boys gained LM, although this was not significant after adjusting for important growth parameters and baseline weight. In addition, we found that changes in BMI and WC were not more strongly related to changes in TotFM or TrunkFM than change in BMI. Even after adjusting for height, age, race and baseline weight in Tanner IV and above, girls lost LM from all regional compartments.

Prior studies have either observed body composition in the inpatient setting, had very homogeneous samples, used suboptimal methods of body composition (bioelectrical impedance analysis), or were of limited duration [17, 18]. This study adds to the literature through the use of longitudinal data with measurements from baseline to 6 and 12 months of treatment in an outpatient setting, and included traditional uses of multidisciplinary behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy to induce weight loss in adolescents. Additionally, previous studies of body composition of weight loss have not included baseline weight in the analysis. This study demonstrates that changes in differences in body composition by gender are masked when baseline weight is not included in the analyses.

The effect of weight loss trials on LM in adolescents has been variable [18, 19]. Earlier studies using very low calorie diets and moderate vigorous physical activity resulted in loss of LM in adults [20] and children [17]. Subsequent intensive inpatient studies demonstrated maintenance of LM [17, 21]. In this study, which used a moderate calorie restriction, LM was preserved in boys and that although the absolute LM decreases in girls, the percentage of weight that is LM continues to increase.

Another goal of this study was to determine whether WC provided important information about the composition of weight lost and its distribution. Our findings indicated that WC did not improve upon BMI in providing information related to total and regional compartments of body fat. However this does not reduce the clinical utility of WC as it is a predictor of cardiovascular disease and has been linked with metabolic syndrome in adults [22, 23], children and adolescents [24, 25]. In other studies, baseline and final WC was highly correlated with total and trunk FM [17]; however, change in WC was only moderately correlated with change in both total trunk FM and total FM. For purposes of monitoring, the composition and distribution of weight loss, our findings do not support the use of change in WC over BMI to estimate change in FM in obese adolescents. Currently, WC in combination with BMI is used to screen for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Future studies examining the relationship of change in arm circumference, WC and BMI in adolescents with cardiovascular disease risk factors need to be performed.

This study has several limitations. The main limitation is the use of DXA to assess compartmental differences in FM and LM among obese adolescents. Analysis of DXA scan images requires placement of lines separating limbs from the trunk regions. For obese individuals, these lines of separation usually do not completely separate appendages from the trunk and there may be some overlap of fat between trunk and appendicular compartments. In addition, sexual maturity is an important factor influencing changes in body composition. In this sample, all subjects were Tanner IV or greater; therefore, it is necessary to test these effects in a group of adolescents at earlier stages of pubertal development to further estimate the relationships in younger children. The use of a self-assessment tool for Tanner staging in obese adolescents has been found to be inaccurate, particularly for early stages because it underestimates adolescents' sexual maturation [26]. However, adolescents in this study rated themselves as Tanner IV or greater, making this type of error much less likely [26].

Furthermore, to account for differences in physiological growth between boys and girls, we adjusted for height in our analysis. An alternative approach is to use LM/height [2], available from recent reference data [27]. We are unable to use this reference data, however as (1) bone was included in the LM calculations, and we excluded bone as our tissue of interest was muscle; (2) the reference data is provided in 2-year age increments, and does not have the refinement required for this 12-month study; and (3) we used a different DXA hardware and software system so our LM measurements are not comparable to the reference data. Given the rapid growth of adolescents and these other limitations, we opted to simply adjust for height in regression models so that changes in LM adjusted for height would be represented [27]. Furthermore, our findings do not address the composition of lean body mass. The hydration of fat-free mass (LM) is greater in obese adolescents [28]. This hydration difference and a lack of a model that addresses measured protein in adolescent does not distinguish how much of the change in LM reflects protein vs. water as assessed by DXA.

This study has unique strengths. The data were adjusted for important factors for growth in adolescents: height, age, African ancestry and sex. The effect of baseline weight on changes in body composition was included in this study. The impact of initial weight on body composition has not been previously assessed. As the goal was to study the body composition of weight loss, only adolescents that lost weight were included in this study as we were interested in the composition of weight loss, whereas other studies have also included those who did not lose weight. Additionally, in contrast to previous studies, which have primarily examined the effects of weight loss on body composition in inpatient or residential settings, this study examined the effects of weight loss in adolescents from an outpatient weight loss trial that is closer to real-life conditions.

Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Adolescence is a developmental period when sex-specific changes in stature and body composition are expected to occur. This evaluation of the composition of weight loss in obese adolescents examined the pattern of change in boys and girls, and also examined the effects of growth on these outcomes. Our findings showed that in the setting of a 12-month weight loss intervention in adolescents receiving multidisciplinary behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy, weight loss was primarily from FM in both boys and girls, and was sustained over 12 months. In addition, boys gained and girls lost LM. However, in relative terms, LM percentage increased for both males and females. While WC may be a good screening measure for cardiometabolic complications of obesity, it does not improve upon BMI as a measure to monitor changes in body composition over time.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

The authors would like to thank the subjects and their families for participating in the study, the staff of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Nutrition and Growth Laboratory and the Center for Clinical and Translational Research. This work was supported by the National Institute of Health (R01-DK054713 to RIB), the Center for Translational Research of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (M01-RR00240), and Knoll Pharmaceutical and Abbott Laboratories. EP is supported by the NIH grant 3R01HD049701-02S1. The authors would also like to acknowledge Thomas A. Wadden and Joanna L. Cronquist for their contribution.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and procedures
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusions
  8. Conflict of interest statement
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
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