Fifty-year trends in serial body mass index during adolescence in girls: The Fels Longitudinal Study

Ellen W. Demerath, Jianrong Li, Shumei S. Sun, W. Cameron Chumlea, Karen E. Remsberg, Stefan A. Czerwinski, Bradford Towne, Roger M. Siervogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Background: A decline in the age at menarche was recently reported for US girls. Although it is possible that this recent drop stems from the concurrent increase in childhood obesity, few longitudinal studies of growth and development have been undertaken to specifically address the temporal relation between growth, adiposity, and the age at menarche. Objective: The objective was to simultaneously examine the effects of birth cohort (secular trend) and rate of maturation (age at menarche) on the timing and pattern of increases in body mass index (BMI) during adolescence in girls. Design: We applied mixed-effects polynomial models to serial BMI data, spanning from 6 y before menarche to 6 y after menarche, obtained from 211 girls enrolled in the Fels Longitudinal Study. We examined the effects of birth cohort (defined as girls born 1929-1946, 1947-1964, and 1965-1983) and age at menarche (defined as ≤11.9 y, 12.0-13.1 y, and ≥13.2 y) on the magnitude and velocity of BMI during adolescence. Results: BMI and BMI velocity in girls born after 1965 were significantly greater than those of girls of earlier birth cohorts, despite stability in the mean age at menarche. Although girls with early menarche tended to have significantly higher BMIs than did girls with average or later menarche, these differences did not emerge until after menarche. Conclusion: These data suggest that increases in relative weight are a consequence, rather than a determinant, of the age at menarche and that secular changes in BMI and in the mean age at menarche could be independent phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-446
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Adolescence
  • Body composition
  • Body mass index
  • Cohort effect
  • Female children
  • Growth
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Menarche
  • Sex maturation
  • United States


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