To evaluate the possible role of inadequate food intake in the pathogenesis of the growth retardation of patients with sickle cell anemia, we determined the daily intake of calories and macronutrients and measured several anthropometric indices in 20 patients with sickle cell anemia aged 17-35 years and in 15 of their normal siblings of similar age. Compared to the control groups, the male patients, but not the females, had a significantly lower mean weight, body mass index, midarm circumference, and triceps and subscapular skinfold thicknesses. Also, while the male patients consumed significantly less total calories, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats per day than their control group, no difference was noted between the daily intake of calories or macronutrients in the female patients and their control group. However, when the intake of calories and macronutrients was corrected for body weight, there was no statistically significant difference between the intake of nutrients in the male patients and their control subjects or between the female patients and their control group. These results suggest a sex-related difference in the somatic growth of adolescent and adult patients with sickle cell anemia and also suggest that, although an inadequate food intake may be partly responsible for the impaired somatic growth in sickle cell anemia, other factors are also probably important.
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