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Body Build, Body Composition and Indicators of Health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults.



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29th May 2012

Overweight and central obesity are major risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Indigenous Australians have a disproportionately higher burden of disease, including diabetes, CVD and chronic kidney impairment than other Australians.  Despite this burden of illness, few studies report detailed examinations of the body build and composition of Indigenous Australians.  This is the first detailed study of body composition and health indicators in large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We report two key differences in skeletal dimensions of the upper body (trunk).  Aboriginal adults have a shorter trunk for overall height, which was closely related to a central obesity.  Torres Strait Islander adults have a broader skeleton than Aborigines, which was strongly associated with higher lean body mass for size.

Lean Aboriginal adults displayed numerous indicators of health.  However, overweight was strongly associated with intra-abdominal fat deposition and CVD risk markers: albuminuria, high markers of inflammation and low HDL-cholesterol.  Obesity was also described by fat-related biomarkers (adipokines). High leptin and low adiponectin was associated with high body fat, and high intra-abdominal fat respectively.

Finally, we propose a link between obesity, adipokines, and the development of albuminuria, which is a known independent risk marker for both CVD and kidney failure.

Dr Jaqui Hughes is a nephrologist at Royal Darwin Hospital, and PhD Candidate at Menzies School of Health Research.  Her research interests include preventing the progression of early chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.