Altered growth patterns of a mountain Ok population of Papua New Guinea over 25 years of change

Amita Adhikari, Ananda Sen, Robert C. Brumbaugh, Jessica Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Context: The Mountain Ok (Mt Ok) people of Telefomin, who live at the interior of Papua New Guinea (PNG), were documented over 25 years ago to be one of the shortest populations on record, with average adult height below the fifth percentile (US). Serum Growth Hormone was detectable, Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 and serum indicators of protein nutritional status fell within the normal range, suggesting that these were not primary factors for their relative short stature. Objective: Since the Telefolmin people have experienced recent socioeconomic changes, they were re-evaluated in 2008, to examine height, weight, and body mass index (BMI), for insight into relative contributions of environment and other factors that modulate stature in children and adults. Study Design and Setting: Cross-sectional anthropometric data were collected from 474 individuals at Telefomin in 2008, and compared with anthropometric data from 342 individuals measured in 1983. Results: The height of Telefolmin subjects, below the fifth percentile in 1983, remained below the fifth percentile in 2008. Weight and BMI of peripubertal and adult age groups increased from 1983 to 2008. Male and female heights at peripubertal ages were significantly greater in 2008. Nevertheless, final adult height did not change significantly over the 25 years. Conclusions: Recent socioeconomic changes appear to contribute to increased weight, BMI, and stature at younger ages in the Mt Ok at Telefomin. In contrast, unchanging adult stature may reflect a delay in the impact of socioeconomic changes, or genetic influences that modulate responsiveness to other growth regulators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-332
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


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