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Eur Heart J. 2013 Apr;34(16):1215-24. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehs333. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

Life course body mass index, birthweight and lipid levels in mid-adulthood: a nationwide birth cohort study.

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Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street London WC1N 1EH, UK.



Improvement in lipid profiles is an important public health and clinical goal for which a better understanding is needed of biological pathways and influences. Evidence is scant on the role of growth, including trajectories of body mass index (BMI), so we aimed to determine whether particular life stages from birth to adulthood are important for lipid levels in mid-adulthood (45 years).


In the 1958 British birth cohort (n = 3927 men; 3897 women), weight and height were recorded at: birth (weight only), 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, and 45 years. Birthweight was inversely associated with triglycerides and in women with total- and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; associations were little affected by adjustment for 7-year BMI. Associations between lipids and BMI strengthened with age, e.g. in women, adult (45-year) triglycerides were elevated by 1.54% (95% confidence interval: 0.87-2.21%) and 3.57% (3.29-3.86%), respectively, per kg/m² higher BMI at 11 and 45 years. Body mass index gain was related to lipids, with strongest associations for the interval between 33 and 45 years, where a kg/m² gain in BMI was associated with ~0.6% higher total cholesterol and ~5.3% higher triglycerides. Associations between 45-year BMI and lipids were stronger for those with lowest than highest BMI at younger ages (P for interaction ≤0.05). A long duration of obesity and obesity in childhood but not thereafter were unrelated to adult lipid levels.


Our findings from a large population-based cohort highlight detrimental consequences of high adult BMI for lipids as most pronounced for those with a lower BMI at earlier life stages.

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