Do Childrens Growth Standards Need
By Jill Lee
August 25, 1997
A new study adds to previous evidence
that childrens body composition standards may need a closer look to make
sure they reflect the ethnic diversity of American teenagers.
Nutritional researcher Ken Ellis conducted the study at the
Childrens Nutrition Research
Center in Houston. The center is a cooperative facility run by
Agricultural Research Service and
Baylor College of Medicine.
Growth standards are often used to indicate a childs nutritional
status. But currently they refer only to age, gender and weight. The Houston
study is the latest evidence that revising the standards to include body
composition--the bodys ratio of fat, bone and lean muscle--might help
pediatricians and parents assess more accurately whether a child is growing up
Of the 297 boys in the study, 145 were white, 78 black and 74 Hispanic. All
were healthy and fit. Ages ranged from 3 to 18 years. The researchers said they
owe a debt of gratitude to the boys parents for permitting their sons to
participate in the voluntary study. Ellis used a noninvasive
technique--dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA)--to compare the boys
body composition at various ages.
The preliminary findings suggest black, white and Hispanic boys develop
differences in body composition as they reach puberty. As children grow, their
bone mineral and muscle tissue increase. They also store some fat to serve as
an energy reserve to help fuel rapid growth during puberty. But Ellis found
black teens in the study stored relatively more muscle and bone, and Hispanic
teens stored relatively more fat. After accounting for height, weight, age and
other factors, the scientists found significant differences in the boys
growth patterns by ethnic group.
The study follows up on a similar one on girls at the Houston center. The
earlier trials conclusions also indicated ethnic diversity should be
considered in developing body composition standards. Other institutions are
studying childrens growth standards such as the U.S.
National Center for Health Statistics
and the World Health Organization.
Scientific contact: Kenneth J. Ellis, USDA-ARS/Baylor College of
Composition Laboratory, Childrens Nutrition Research Center, Houston,
Texas, phone (713) 798-7131, fax 798- 7130, email@example.com