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Maternal distress in early life predicts the waist-to-hip ratio in schoolchildren

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 January 2011

A. L. Kozyrskyj*
Affiliation:
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Pediatrics, Women and Children's Health Research Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Y. Zeng
Affiliation:
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Pediatrics, Women and Children's Health Research Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
I. Colman
Affiliation:
School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
K. T. HayGlass
Affiliation:
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Immunology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
E. A. C. Sellers
Affiliation:
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
A. B. Becker
Affiliation:
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
B. J. MacNeil
Affiliation:
School of Medical Rehabilitation, University of Manitoba Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
*
*Address for correspondence: Dr A. L. Kozyrskyj, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Pediatrics, Women and Children's Health Research Institute, University of Alberta, 11402 University Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Email anitakozyrskyj@med.ualberta.ca)

Abstract

We report on life course stress determinants of overweight in children, using data from the longitudinal follow-up of the nested case–control arm of the SAGE (study of asthma genes and the environment) birth cohort in Manitoba, Canada. Waist and hip measurements were obtained during a clinic visit at age 9–11 years. Multiple linear regression was conducted to determine the relationship between the waist-to-hip ratio and maternal smoking during pregnancy, postpartum maternal distress and stress reactivity in children (cortisol, cortisol-DHEA [dihydroepiandrostrenone] ratio quartiles) following a clinic stressor at age 8–10 years. We found waist-to-hip risk at age 9–11 years to be elevated among boys and girls whose mothers had experienced distress in the postnatal period. This association varied by gender and asthma status. In healthy girls, postpartum distress increased waist-to-hip ratio by a factor of 0.034 (P < 0.01), independent of the child's stage of puberty and adrenarche, cortisol-DHEA ratio and duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Among girls with asthma, maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with an increased waist-to-hip ratio, if the mother also experienced distress in the postpartum period (0.072, P = 0.038). Among asthmatic boys, an association between maternal distress and waist-to-hip ratio was evident at the highest cortisol-DHEA ratios. Stress-induced changes to leptin and infant over-eating pathways were proposed to explain the postnatal maternal distress effects. Drawing on the theories of evolutionary biology, our findings underscore the significance of postnatal stress in disrupting hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis function in infants and increasing risk for child overweight.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press and the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease 2011

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