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Minerva Pediatrics 2021 Jul 26

DOI: 10.23736/S2724-5276.21.06543-5


language: English

Linear growth and puberty in childhood obesity: what is new?

Enza GIGLIONE 1, Rosa LAPOLLA 2, Stefano CIANFARANI 3, 4, 5, Maria F. FAIENZA 6, Danilo FINTINI 7, Giovanna WEBER 8, Maurizio DELVECCHIO 9, Giuliana VALERIO 10

1 ASLTO4, Lanzo Torinese, Turin, Italy; 2 Dipartimento Materno-Infantile, AOR San Carlo, Potenza, Italy; 3 Dipartimento Pediatrico Universitario Ospedaliero, IRCCS Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, Rome, Italy; 4 Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy; 5 Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institute and University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden; 6 Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology, Pediatric Unit, University A. Moro, Bari, Italy; 7 Endocrinology Unit, Pediatric University Department, Bambino Gesù Children Hospital, Rome, Italy; 8 Department of Pediatrics, IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy; 9 Metabolic Disorders and Genetic Unit, Giovanni XXIII Children Hospital, Bari, Italy; 10 Department of Movement Sciences and Wellbeing, University of Naples Parthenope, Naples, Italy


Pediatric obesity is a growing and alarming global health problem and represents an important determinant of morbidity. Since nutrition plays an important role in regulating growth and development, the excess weight gain related to overnutrition can affect growth patterns, bone maturation and pubertal development. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current knowledge about the effect of primary obesity on linear growth and pubertal development in children and adolescents. Evidences about regulatory hormones and adipokines that may be involved in the physiology of childhood growth in the context of obesity were also discussed. The most recent literature confirms previous studies indicating that linear growth is accelerated (mainly due to longer trunks rather than longer legs) and bone age is advanced in prepubertal children with obesity, while there is a reduction of pubertal height gain and attainment of normal adult height. Conflicting results are reported on the timing of puberty, specifically in boys. Indeed, previous studies suggested earlier onset of puberty in obese girls and overweight boys, and a delayed puberty in obese boys. Conversely, the most recent studies show more consistently an earlier onset and completion of pubertal development also in boys with obesity. Considering the false belief of health associated with transient taller stature in children and the adverse outcomes related to early puberty, interventions on diet and physical activity are urgently needed to tackle the epidemics of childhood obesity in public health and clinical setting.

KEY WORDS: Body height; Growth and development; Pediatric obesity; Sexual development

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