Introduction The interaction between fatness, fitness, and C-reactive protein (CRP) in adolescents is not well characterized but may be important to prevent low grade inflammation. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between adiposity, different expressions of fitness, and CRP in late adolescence using direct measures of fitness and fatness. Methods Anthropometric measurements were taken on 245 eighteen-year-old participants (116 girls). Fasting CRP, glucose, and insulin were measured and homeostatic model assess- ment (HOMA) calculated. Body composition was estimated via dual energy X-ray absorpti- ometry. Fitness was assessed with maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) during a treadmill test and also expressed relative to the fat-free mass (VO2maxFFM). Results Prevalence of overweight/obesity based on body mass index (BMI) was 20.7% and 25.6% among girls and boys, respectively (p = 0.407), but 42.5% and 58.1% when based on body fat percentage (%fat, p = 0.015). Higher proportion of boys (81.3%) than girls (54.5%) were highly fit (p<0.001), but the percentage of girls with high levels of CRP was greater (12.1% vs 6.2%, p = 0.028). Adiposity, indicated with BMI, waist circumference, fat mass, android fat mass (aFM), or %fat, was positively associated with CRP independent of VO2max (r = 0.13-0.18, p<0.05) and VO2maxFFM (r = 0.24-0.32, p<0.001). VO2max, was negatively associated with CRP independent only of BMI and waist circumference (r = -0.21, p = 0.001), but not %fat, fat mass or aFM (r = -0.08 to -0.12, p>0.05). VO2maxFFM was unrelated to CRP with (r = -0.07 to -0.11, p>0.05) or without (r = -0.10, p = 0.142) adjustment for adiposity. Additional adjustment for HOMA did not change any of the relationships, although the coefficients were attenuated. Conclusions Fatness has a greater association with CRP than fitness in late adolescence. However, VO2maxFFM, which is truly independent of adiposity, is unrelated to CRP, indicating that the effects of fitness might be mediated via the fatness component embedded in fitness expressed relative to body mass.
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