The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Socioeconomic status and duration of breastfeeding explain childhood adiposity in boys but not girls


Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Adiposity during childhood may be associated with poor health throughout adulthood. This complex trait is influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors throughout life. Our objectives were to examine the relationships between childhood adiposity, anthropometric, sociodemographic, and life history variables.

We collected anthropometric data (stature, weight, digit length, waist circumference, MUAC, abdominal and triceps skinfold) in children (n = 55) from elementary schools in Lincoln, NE. Parents were surveyed regarding life history (maternal age at menarche, subject birth weight and length, maternal and paternal height, duration of breastfeeding), education, household structure, diet, and general well being of their child. Percentages of children on free lunch were used as a proxy for socioeconomic status (SES) and subjects were classified dichotomously. Bivariate correlations and regression were used to explore relationships between variables. The Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to investigate differences between groups (α = 0.05).

Results indicate that measures of adiposity during childhood are significantly lower in high rather than low SES families and duration of breastfeeding was negatively associated with childhood adiposity, but this was only true of males. Significant associations between 2D:4D asymmetry and some measures of adiposity in males and females were present and unexpected. Results for adiposity by SES are consistent with prior research and are likely due at least in part to unequal access to appropriate nutrition. Duration of breastfeeding has been associated with decreased adiposity, though our results suggest this is only true for males. Further research is needed to clarify these relationships.

This study was supported by the Layman Award and UCARE funding through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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