Exercise scientist Stults-Kolehmainen studies how female body fat varies by race, ethnicity

Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen
Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen

Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, assistant professor of exercise science in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) at Northern Illinois University, is the lead author of an article published in Obesity, an influential journal covering topics related to obesity and related health pathologies.

Titled “Fat in Android, Trunk and, Peripheral Regions Varies by Ethnicity and Race in College Aged Women,” the article compares the quantity of fat in different areas of the body among young women of varying races.

Investigators specifically looked at 1,161 women ages 18 to 30 who were assessed for body-composition using DXA (dual-emission X-ray absorptiometry) technology, which Stults-Kolehmainen calls “the gold standard for body composition assessment.” The scans, which take about six minutes, were completed at the University of Texas at Austin, the home institution of his co-authors.

The study found differences in fat percentages by body region between most ethnicities.

Some of the results showed that African-Americans had the highest fat percentage, and Hispanics had the second highest fat percentage for each region. Asians had the third highest fat percentage in the trunk and android (abdomen) regions.

For each ethnicity, the gynoid region (hips and thighs) had the greatest fat percentage, followed by the android region, and then the arm region, which had the lowest fat percentage.

“Fat stored in the central areas of the body, such as the abdomen, is related to chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. However, fat naturally varies in deposition by simple demographic factors, such as age, gender and ethnicity,” Stults-Kolehmainen says. “We hope that research in this area will spur interest in how to accurately predict risk for these diseases for specific demographic groups.”

Stults-Kolehmainen will continue to research how demographic factors affect fat deposition. Along with co-authors Philip R. Stanforth and John B. Bartholomew, he next plans to focus on body composition assessment of males.

Another study already in progress is a long term investigation of intercollegiate female athletes over four to five years. “We want to determine the extent to which their body composition undulates over time and how their sport participation influences this change,” he says.

For more information about these research studies, contact Stults-Kolehmainen at mstults@niu.edu.

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