Programming of Adiposity in Childhood and Adolescence: Associations With Birth Weight and Cord Blood Adipokines

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Exposure to maternal adiposity during pregnancy is associated with higher offspring birth weight and greater adiposity through childhood and adult life. As birth weight reflects the summation of lean and fat mass, the extent to which fat mass at birth tracks into later life is unknown.


To determine whether fat mass at birth is associated with child and adolescent adiposity.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

UK birth cohort with markers of neonatal fat mass; cord blood leptin, adiponectin, and birth weight and adiposity outcomes at age 9 (n = 2775) and 17 years (n = 2138).

Main Outcomes:

Offspring body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry–determined fat mass, and obesity at age 9 and 17 years.


Higher cord blood leptin was associated with higher z scores of fat mass [difference in mean per 10 pg/mL: 0.03 standard deviation (SD); 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.00 to 0.06], waist circumference (0.04 SD; 95% CI, 0.00 to 0.07), and BMI (0.04 SD; 95% CI, 0.00 to 0.08) at age 9. However, by age 17 the adjusted results were attenuated to the null. Cord blood adiponectin was not associated with measures of adiposity at age 9. At age 17, cord blood adiponectin was positively associated with fat mass (0.02 SD per 10 μg/mL; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.03) and waist circumference (0.04 SD per 10 μg/mL; 95% CI, 0.03 to 0.05). Birth weight was positively associated with waist circumference (0.03 SD per 100 g; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.04) and BMI (0.02 SD per 100 g; 95% CI, 0.00 to 0.03), but not fat mass or odds of obesity. Cord blood leptin and adiponectin were not associated with obesity at either age.


Increased cord blood leptin and adiponectin, known surrogates of fetal fat mass, were weakly associated with increased fat mass in late childhood and adolescence, respectively.

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