Short stature or short legs is associated with cardiometabolic disease. Few studies have addressed this issue in children, incorporated repeated measures, or studied modern cohorts.
We examined if change in total height, leg length and trunk length between two time points from early (median: 3.2 years) to mid-childhood (median: 7.7 years), with and without adjustment for concurrent change in adiposity (subscapular plus triceps skinfold thickness), was associated with mid-childhood cardiometabolic risk in 315 boys and 295 girls from Project Viva. The main outcome was a cardiometabolic risk score based on sex-specific internal z-scores for systolic blood pressure, waist circumference, homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance, triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol.
Mean (SD) total height was 97.9 (4.5) cm in boys and 97.1 (4.7) cm in girls in early childhood and 129.1 (7.2) cm in boys and 128.3 (7.9) cm in girls in mid-childhood. Trunk length constituted about half of total height. In linear regression models adjusted for parental anthropometry and socio-demographics, faster growth in total height, leg length and particularly trunk length, were associated with higher cardiometabolic risk in mid-childhood. Per 1 cm annual increase in trunk length, the cardiometabolic risk score was 0.23 z-score (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.08, 0.39) higher among boys and 0.47 z-score (95% CI 0.33, 0.60) higher among girls. Estimates were attenuated after adjusting for adiposity (boys: 0.03 z-score, 95% CI -0.11, 0.18; girls: 0.32 z-score, 95% CI 0.19, 0.45).
Rapid linear growth, particularly in trunk length, was associated with higher cardiometabolic risk in childhood, which was explained by relationships of linear growth with adiposity in boys, but only partly in girls.