Differences in total and regional body fat and their association with BMI in UK-born White and South Asian children: findings from the Born in Bradford birth cohort [version 1; peer review: 1 approved with reservations]

Publication authors

Gillian Santorelli, Jane West, Tiffany Yang, John Wright, Maria Bryant, D.A.Lawlor


Background: Body mass index (BMI) is commonly used as a proxy to determine excess adiposity, though this may underestimate fat mass (FM) in individuals of South Asian (SA) heritage. SA tend to have greater central adiposity than white people, which is associated with a higher risk of cardiometabolic disease. In this cross-sectional study, we aimed to determine the differences in total and regional FM using Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and to see if any differences in FM varied by BMI category in UK-born white and SA children aged ~9 years.

Methods: Anthropometric measurements and DXA scans were undertaken from 225 white and 269 SA children from the Born in Bradford cohort study. Linear regression was used to assess ethnic differences in total body fat percent and total and regional FM.

Results: Although the mean BMI was similar, compared to white children, the proportion of SA children who were overweight or obese was ~20% higher, they had a median of 2kg more total FM, and the proportion with > 35% total body fat (TBF) was 22% and 16% higher in boys and girls respectively. Mean TBF% was greater in each BMI category, as was truncal, android and gynoid FM, with the greatest differences between ethnic groups observed in the healthy and overweight categories.

Conclusions: Greater TBF% and total and regional FM in the healthy- and overweight BMI categories observed in SA children suggests they may be at greater risk of future cardiometabolic disease at a BMI level below obesity threshold. However, our sample size was small, and results may be influenced by selection bias and confounding; our findings need to be replicated in a larger study.