Decrease of Total Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue From Infancy to Childhood

Kaimbacher, Petra S.*; Dunitz-Scheer, Marguerite*; Wallner-Liebmann, Sandra J.; Scheer, Peter J.Z.*; Sudi, Karl; Schnedl, Wolfgang J.§; Tafeit, Erwin||

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition:
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e318228d7bb
Original Article: Hepatology and Nutrition

Objectives: The observation and research of body composition is a topic of present interest. For the assessment of health and variables influencing growth and nutrition, it is of utmost interest to focus on the population of young children.

Subjects and Methods: The measurements of subcutaneous body fat distribution in a sample of clinically healthy children ages 0 to 7 years were examined. The optical device LIPOMETER was applied to measure the thickness of subcutaneous adipose tissue layers (in millimeters) at 15 well-defined body sites. This set of measurement points defines the subcutaneous adipose tissue topography. In the present study, subcutaneous adipose tissue topography was determined in 275 healthy children (128 girls and 147 boys) divided into 3 age groups.

Results: The results of the measurements are presented in 3 levels: total subcutaneous adipose tissue, 4 body regions, and 15 body sites. Our results show a clear physiological decrease in subcutaneous body fat in boys (−43.8%) and girls (−39.8%). One interesting finding was that the decrease occurs mainly in the trunk, abdomen, and lower extremities, whereas the body fat distribution of the upper extremities did not differ. Furthermore, slight subcutaneous adipose tissue topography differences between both sexes were found.

Conclusions: The present study provides basic documentation of subcutaneous adipose tissue topography in healthy children ages 0 to 7 years. An accurate description of subcutaneous adipose tissue topography in healthy subjects could help to characterize various diseases in relation to overnutrition and malnutrition throughout childhood.

Author Information

*Department of General Pediatrics, University Clinic of Pediatrics and Adolescence Medicine

Institute of Pathophysiology, Center for Molecular Medicine, Medical University Graz

Institute for Sport Sciences, Karl-Franzens University Graz, Graz

§Practice for General Internal Medicine, Bruck/Mur

||Institute of Physiological Chemistry, Center for Physiological Medicine, Medical University Graz, Graz, Austria.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Petra S. Kaimbacher, Department of General Pediatrics, University Clinic of Pediatrics and Adolescence Medicine, Medical University Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 30/4, A-8036 Graz, Austria (e-mail:

Received 4 October, 2010

Accepted 1 June, 2011

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2011 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN