Pubertal Timing and Growth Influences Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Adult Males and Females

  1. Aarno Palotie, MD, PHD1,10,11,12
  1. 1Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Imperial College, London, U.K.
  4. 4Department of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, U.K.
  5. 5National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
  6. 6Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  7. 7Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Oulu, Finland
  8. 8Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  9. 9Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  10. 10Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Boston, Massachusetts
  11. 11Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, U.K.
  12. 12Department of Medical Genetics, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Corresponding author: Elisabeth Widén, elisabeth.widen{at}
  • †Deceased.


OBJECTIVE Early pubertal onset in females is associated with increased risk for adult obesity and cardiovascular disease, but whether this relationship is independent of preceding childhood growth events is unclear. Furthermore, the association between male puberty and adult disease remains unknown. To clarify the link between puberty and adult health, we evaluated the relationship between pubertal timing and risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in both males and females from a large, prospective, and randomly ascertained birth cohort from Northern Finland.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Pubertal timing was estimated based on pubertal height growth in 5,058 subjects (2,417 males and 2,641 females), and the relationship between puberty and body weight, glucose and lipid homeostasis, and blood pressure at age 31 years was evaluated with linear regression modeling.

RESULTS Earlier pubertal timing associated with higher adult BMI, fasting insulin, diastolic blood pressure, and decreased HDL cholesterol in both sexes (P < 0.002) and with higher total serum cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in males. The association with BMI and diastolic blood pressure remained statistically significant in both sexes, as did the association with insulin levels and HDL cholesterol concentrations in males after adjusting for covariates reflecting both fetal and childhood growth including childhood BMI.

CONCLUSIONS We demonstrate independent association between earlier pubertal timing and adult metabolic syndrome-related derangements both in males and females. The connection emphasizes that the mechanisms advancing puberty may also contribute to adult metabolic disorders.


  • Received July 20, 2011.
  • Accepted December 21, 2011.

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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 35 no. 4 850-856
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