Differential impact of maternal and paternal ethnicity on the pattern of fat distribution in infants at age 3 months

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As ethnicity is typically recorded as a single demographic variable in clinical studies, little is known about the relative impact of maternal vs. paternal ethnicity on fat distribution.


The objective of this study was to determine whether there is a differential impact of maternal and paternal ethnicity on infant adiposity.


Three hundred fifty-five infants underwent anthropometric assessment at age 3 months, including skin-fold thickness (SFT) measurement at subscapular, suprailiac and triceps. Maternal (M) and paternal (P) ethnicity were classified as white (M = 241, P = 252), Asian (M = 50, P = 42) or other (M = 64, P = 61).


Infants with either Asian mother (compared with white) or Asian father (compared with white) had increased subscapular, suprailiac and triceps SFT (all P < 0.05). On logistic regression analysis, however, only maternal Asian ethnicity (compared with white) independently predicted the likelihood of an infant being in the highest tertile for SFT at subscapular (odds ratio [OR] = 2.72, 95% confidence interval 1.17–6.34, P = 0.02), suprailiac (OR = 3.56, 1.51–8.42, P = 0.004) and triceps (OR = 3.26, 1.40–7.55, P = 0.005). In contrast, paternal Asian ethnicity was independently associated with sum of SFT only (OR = 2.46, 1.02–5.97, P = 0.04).


Maternal and paternal Asian ethnicity have differential effects on infant fat distribution. Future clinical studies on obesity and fat composition should consider the distinct contributions of both parents to the ethnic classification of participants.

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