Growth and development of body fat distribution from skinfold measurements: Longitudinal principal components

Faranghise Serry Bahhage, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Longitudinal principal components analyses on a combination of four subcutaneous skinfolds (biceps, triceps, subscapular and suprailiac) were performed using data from the London Longitudinal Growth Study. The main objectives were to discover at what age during growth sex differences in body fat distribution occur and to see if there is continuity in body fatness and body fat distribution from childhood into the adult status (18 years). The analyses were done for four age sectors (3mon-3yrs, 3yrs-8yrs, 8yrs-18yrs and 3yrs-18yrs). Longitudinal principal component one (LPC1) for each age interval in both sexes represents the population mean fat curve. Component two (LPC2) is a velocity of fatness component. Component three (LPC3) in the 3mon-3yrs age sector represents infant fat wave in both sexes. In the next two age sectors component three in males represents peaks and shifts in fat growth (change in velocity), while in females it represents body fat distribution. Component four (LPC4) in the same two age sectors is a reversal in the sexes of the patterns seen for component three, i.e., in males it is body fat distribution and in females velocity shifts. Components five and above represent more complicated patterns of change (multiple increases and decreases across the age interval). In both sexes there is strong tracking in fatness from middle childhood to adolescence. In males only there is also a low to moderate tracking of infant fat with middle to late childhood fat. These data are strongly supported in the literature. Several factors are known to predict adult fatness among the most important being previous levels of fatness (at earlier ages) and the age at rebound. In addition we found that the velocity of fat change in middle childhood was highly predictive of later fatness (r $\approx -$0.7), even more so than age at rebound (r $\approx -$0.5). In contrast to fatness (LPC1), body fat distribution (LPC3-LPC4) did not track well even though significant components of body fat distribution occur at each age. Tracking of body fat distribution was higher in females than males. Sex differences in body fat distribution are non existent. Some sex differences are evident with the peripheral-to-central ratios after age 14 years.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Public health

Recommended Citation

Bahhage, Faranghise Serry, "Growth and development of body fat distribution from skinfold measurements: Longitudinal principal components" (1993). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9401769.