Racial differences in body fat distribution among reproductive-aged women

Mahbubur Rahman, Jeff R. Temple, Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, Abbey B. Berenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


We examined the influence of race/ethnicity on body fat distribution for a given body mass index (BMI) among reproductive-aged women. Body weight, height, and body fat distribution were measured with a digital scale, wall-mounted stadiometer, and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, respectively, on 708 healthy black, white, and Hispanic women 16 to 33 years of age. Multiple linear regression was used to model the relationship between race/ethnicity and different body fat distribution variables after adjusting for BMI, age at menarche, and demographic and lifestyle variables. For a given BMI, white women had the highest total fat mass (FMtotal), trunk fat mass (FMtrunk), and leg fat mass (FMleg), whereas Hispanic women had the highest percentage of FMtrunk (%FMtrunk) and trunk-to-limb fat mass ratio (FMRtrunk-to-limb). Conversely, black women had the lowest FMtotal, FMtrunk, percentage body fat mass (%FM), %FMtrunk, and FMRtrunk-to-limb, and the highest percentage of FMleg. The %FM was similar in whites and Hispanics and lower in blacks. The race × BMI interactions were significant for almost all of the body fat distribution variables. Increasing in differences with increasing BMI were apparent between blacks and whites in FMtrunk, %FMtrunk, FMRtrunk-to-limb, %FMleg, and %FM, and between blacks and Hispanics in FMtrunk, %FMtrunk, FMRtrunk-to-limb, and FMleg. In summary, the distribution of body fat for a given BMI differs by race among reproductive-aged women. These findings raise questions regarding universally applied BMI-based guidelines for obesity and have implications for patient education regarding individual risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1329-1337
Number of pages9
JournalMetabolism: Clinical and Experimental
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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