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 mean BMI was similar, compared to white children, the proportion of SA children who were overweight or obese was ~20% higher, and the proportion with > 35% total body fat (TBF) was 22% and 16% higher in boys and girls respectively. Mean TBF% was greater in SA children compared to white children in the same BMI category. Fat mass index (FMI) was higher in all body regions in SA children in all BMI categories; as was total and truncal FMI in healthy and overweight, but not obese, SA children..
Conclusions: Greater TBF% and total and regional FM in SA children suggests they may be at greater risk of future cardiometabolic disease at a BMI level below the 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.