No association between body height and metabolic risk factors in historically short height Asian Indian tribes
Keywords:Height, India, Tribes, Diabetes, Hypertension, St. Nicolas House Analysis
Background: Asian Indians often get predisposed to non-communicable diseases for which the “thin-fat” or “hidden obese” Indian phenotype is usually regarded responsible. In Europe, America and in some low-middle-income countries (LMICs) short height is often associated with a high risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS). Indians and particularly tribal Indian people are relatively short.
Aim: To assess the associations of height with MetS risk factors among tribal people of India.
Sample and methods: This study was conducted among tribes of India under life-style transition. The height range was 163.2 cm to 156.5 cm (males) and 151.6 cm to 146.9 cm (females). The participants were 1066 men and 1090 women aged 20 to 60 years. Anthropometric and metabolic markers included in the study were height, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), skinfolds (biceps, triceps, sub-scapular, and supra-iliacal), fasting blood glucose (FBG), blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) and pulse rate (PR).
Results: The highest correlation existed between height and WC (male: 0.21; female: 0.15). Correlations of body composition variables (BMI, WC, skinfolds) with MetS risk factors (FBG, SBP, DBP, PR) were not reliable (r < 0.30) among both sexes. St. Nicolas House Analysis revealed WC among males and WC and sub-scapular skinfolds among females sharing more connections with other nodes variables.
Conclusions: Unlike the people of the wealthy and often obese social strata of low-middle-income countries, and in Europe and North America, height of tribal Indian populations is not associated with metabolic risk factors, such as hypertension, elevated fasting blood sugar, and central obesity. Rather than linked to the phenotype, obesity appears to be associated with an obesogenic environment. Public health policy should focus on problems associated with obesogenic environments.
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