Public Health Nutrition

Biological and behavioural determinants

6-n-Propylthiouracil sensitivity and obesity status among ethnically diverse children

Janice C Baranowskia1 c1, Tom Baranowskia1, Alicia Beltrana1, Kathy B Watsona1, Russell Jagoa2, Margaret Calliea1, Mariam Missaghiana3 and Beverly J Teppera4

a1 USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, 1100 Bates Street, Houston, TX 77030, USA

a2 Department of Exercise and Health, Centre for Sport and Exercise, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

a3 International Research Associates, LLC, San Juan, Puerto Rico

a4 Department of Food Science, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers School of Medicine, New Brunswick, NJ, USA


Objective To examine the relationship of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) sensitivity to BMI while statistically controlling for demographic characteristics in two age groups of children: 9–10 years and 17–18 years (n 1551).

Design Cross-sectional design with a multi-ethnic (White, African-American, Hispanic, Other) sample of 813 children aged 9–10 years and 738 children aged 17–18 years. Children were recruited from local elementary and high schools with at least 30 % minority ethnic enrolment. Children’s height, weight and waist circumference were measured along with their PROP taster status. PROP was measured using two paper discs, one impregnated with NaCl (1·0 mol/l) and the other with PROP solution (0·50 mmol/l).

Results A significant PROP sensitivity by socio-economic status (SES) interaction term (P = 0·010) was detected wherein supertasters had the largest BMI percentile and Z-score, but only among the group with highest SES.

Conclusions The results suggest that other factors overwhelmed the influence of PROP sensitivity on adiposity in lower-SES groups. The percentage of variance accounted for by the interaction term was about 1 %. Thus, PROP supertasters had the largest BMI percentile and Z-score, but only among the highest-SES group.

(Received March 16 2009)

(Accepted November 11 2009)

(Online publication December 22 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email