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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2007 Sep;40(9):1231-6. Epub 2007 Sep 10.

Do early life factors influence body mass index in adolescents?

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  • 1Departamento de Pediatria e Puericultura, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brasil.


The association between early life factors and body mass index (BMI) in adulthood has been demonstrated in developed countries. The aim of the present study was to assess the influence of early life factors (birth weight, gestational age, maternal smoking, and social class) on BMI in young adulthood with adjustment for adult socioeconomic position. A cohort study was carried out in 1978/79 with 6827 mother-child pairs from Ribeirão Preto city, located in the most developed economic area of the country. Biological, economic and social variables and newborn anthropometric measurements were obtained shortly after delivery. In 1996, 1189 males from this cohort, 34.3% of the original male population, were submitted to anthropometric measurements and were asked about their current schooling on the occasion of army recruitment. A multiple linear regression model was applied to determine variables associated with BMI. Mean BMI was 22.7 (95%CI = 22.5-23.0). After adjustment, BMI was 1.22 kg/m(2) higher among infants born with high birth weight ( > or = 4000 g), 1.21 kg/m(2) higher among individuals of low social class at birth and 0.69 kg/m(2) higher among individuals whose mothers smoked during pregnancy (P < 0.05). The association between social class at birth and BMI remained statistically significant (P < 0.05) even after adjustment for adult schooling. These findings suggest that early life social influences on BMI were more important and were not reversed by late socioeconomic position. Therefore, prevention of overweight and obesity should focus not only on changes in adult life styles but also on factors such as high birth weight.

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