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Psychosom Med. 2018 Jan;80(1):34-41. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000517.

Prenatal Stress, Methylation in Inflammation-Related Genes, and Adiposity Measures in Early Childhood: the Programming Research in Obesity, Growth Environment and Social Stress Cohort Study.

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From the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences (Wu), School of Public Health, Peking University, Beijing, China; Population Health and Science Policy (Gennings), Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, New York; Department of Pediatrics (R.J. Wright), Kravis Children's Hospital, The Mindich Child Health & Development Institute (R.J. Wright), and Department of Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Just, Svensson, R.O. Wright), New York, New York; Department of Statistics (Wilson), Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado; Department of Neonatology and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology (Burris), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; Department of Epidemiology (Braun), School of Public Health, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; Department of Environmental Health Sciences (Zhong, Brennan, Dereix, Baccarelli), Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York; Center for Research in Nutrition and Health (Cantoral, Téllez-Rojo), National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico; and Division of Research on Community Interventions (Schnaas), National Institute of Perinatology, Mexico City, Mexico.



Maternal stress during pregnancy may influence childhood growth and adiposity, possibly through immune/inflammatory programming. We investigated whether exposure to prenatal stress and methylation in inflammation-related genes were associated with childhood adiposity in 424 mother-child pairs in Mexico City, Mexico.


A stress index was created based on four prenatally administered stress-related scales (Exposure to Violence, Crisis in Family Systems, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale). We measured weight, height, body fat mass (BFM), percentage body fat (PBF), and waist circumference in early childhood (age range, 4-6 years). Body mass index (BMI) z scores were calculated according to World Health Organization standards. DNA methylation in gene promoters of tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin 8, and interleukin 6 (IL6) in umbilical cord blood were determined by pyrosequencing.


An interquartile range increase in stress index (27.3) was associated with decreases of 0.14 unit in BMI z score (95% confidence interval [CI] = -0.28 to -0.005), 5.6% in BFM (95% CI = -9.7 to -1.4), 3.5% in PBF (95% CI = -6.3 to -0.5), and 1.2% in waist circumference (95% CI = -2.4 to -0.04) in multivariable-adjusted models. An interquartile range increase in IL6 methylation (3.9%) was associated with increases of 0.23 unit in BMI z score (95% CI = 0.06-0.40), 8.1% (95% CI = 2.3-14.3) in BFM, 5.5% (95% CI = 1.7-9.5) in PBF, and 1.7% (95% CI = 0.2-3.3) in waist circumference.


Prenatal stress was associated with decreased childhood adiposity, whereas cord blood IL6 methylation was associated with increased childhood adiposity in Mexican children.

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