Association of prepubertal body composition in healthy girls and boys with the timing of early and late pubertal markers

Research Institute of Child Nutrition, affiliated with the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, Dortmund, Germany.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Impact Factor: 6.77). 01/2009; 89(1):221-30. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26733
Source: PubMed


It is controversial whether prepubertal body composition is implicated in the timing of puberty onset.
The objective was to investigate whether body composition in the 2 y preceding the start of the pubertal growth spurt -- a marker of puberty onset -- is associated with the attainment of early and late pubertal markers in healthy German boys and girls.
Multivariate-adjusted regression analyses were performed in 215 participants of the DOrtmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed (DONALD) Study for whom body mass index (BMI) and its components fat mass/height(2) (FM/m(2)) and fat-free mass/height(2) (FFM/m(2)) 1 and 2 y before the onset of the pubertal growth spurt (age at takeoff; ATO) and information on early life exposures were available. In addition, age at peak height velocity (APHV) and menarche were examined.
Higher BMIs and FM/m(2) z scores 1 and 2 y before ATO showed modest associations with chronological age at ATO among girls only (girls: P for = trend 0.05-0.1, adjusted for early life factors; boys: P = 0.2-0.6). FFM/m(2) z scores were not related to age at ATO (P for trend = 0.5-0.8). Conversely, prepubertal BMI and FM/m(2) more clearly predicted APHV and puberty duration (APHV minus ATO) in both sexes and age at menarche in girls (girls: adjusted P for trend <0.0001-0.03; boys: P = 0.01-0.046).
This longitudinal study suggests that prepubertal body composition in healthy boys and girls may not be critical for the initiation of the pubertal growth spurt but instead affects the progression of pubertal development, which results in earlier attainment of later pubertal stages.

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    • "Several investigations have focused on the role of genetics [8,9], early life exposure to environmental factors and xenobiotics [10-12], and body composition/weight status [13-16] on pubertal development. Certain dietary factors, such as animal protein and meat [17,18] and milk and total dairy [19], have also been linked to pubertal timing. "
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    • "It is important to use anthropometric measures to determine standard growth curves when assessing childhood growth. Height in particular is an important indicator of puberty because of the association between these 2 factors.1 In addition, it is generally agreed that height growth differs between sexes. "
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    • "Whereas the majority of studies have reported an anticipation of age at pubertal onset in obese girls, for boys the evidence is less clear with conflicting results. In fact, whereas most European studies have shown that obesity is associated with earlier puberty and voice break,3,40–43 American studies have mainly reported the opposite finding of obesity being associated with delayed puberty in boys.33,44–46 These discordant findings are partially explained by the method of assessing puberty. "
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