Hormone May Explain African-American Girls'
By Jill Lee
November 3, 1998
African-American teen-age girls tend to be taller and heavier and to mature
faster than their peers in other ethnic groups. A newly published study of 136
healthy, 8- to 17-year old girls suggests one possible reason for this.
African-American girls in the study had higher blood levels of leptin, a
hormone that helps cue fullness.
Manufactured in fat tissue, leptin is a biochemical cue for curbing appetite
and burning calories. It and another hormone--neuropeptide-Y, which triggers
hunger--help control the cycle of hunger and satiety.
Leptin levels in blood may be higher in some individuals, so their bodies
require more to hear its biochemical message, according to
pediatric researcher William W. Wong at the
Children's Nutrition Research Center
in Houston, Texas. The center is administered by the
Agricultural Research Service and
Baylor College of Medicine. ARS is the
chief research agency of the U.S. Department of
The new study helps fill gaps in data on energy metabolism in the
African-American population. Wong expressed gratitude to the 79 white and 57
African-American girls--all Houston area students--who participated as
Medical research has suggested that higher leptin levels may speed sexual
maturity and make the body better at conserving energy. Higher energy
efficiency could help explain why African- American girls grow faster than
peers in other ethnic groups.
This metabolic efficiency can backfire in adulthood by contributing to
obesity and increased health risk. But the new study adds further evidence that
establishing healthy life styles in childhood can have lasting beneficial
effects into adulthood.
The study was published in the October Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and
Scientific contact: William W. Wong, ARS Children's Nutrition
Research Center, Houston, Texas, phone (719) 798-7168, fax (719) 798-7119,