17 November 2004
Body composition during puberty is a marker of metabolic changes that occur during this period of growth and maturation, and, thus, holds key information regarding current and future health. During puberty, the main components of body composition (total body fat, lean body mass, bone mineral content) all increase, but considerable sexual dimorphism exists. Methods for measuring body composition (e.g. densitometry and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) and degree of maturity will be discussed in this review. Components of body composition show age-to-age correlations (i.e. ‘tracking’), especially from adolescence onwards. Furthermore, adipose tissue is endocrinologically active and is centrally involved in the interaction between adipocytokines, insulin and sex-steroid hormones, and thus influences cardiovascular and metabolic disease processes. In conclusion, pubertal body composition is important, not only for the assessment of contemporaneous nutritional status, but also for being linked directly to the possible onset of chronic disease later in life and is, therefore, useful for disease risk assessment and intervention early in life.