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1.  A Mechanism for the Inhibition of Neural Progenitor Cell Proliferation by Cocaine 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e117.
Background
Prenatal exposure of the developing brain to cocaine causes morphological and behavioral abnormalities. Recent studies indicate that cocaine-induced proliferation inhibition and/or apoptosis in neural progenitor cells may play a pivotal role in causing these abnormalities. To understand the molecular mechanism through which cocaine inhibits cell proliferation in neural progenitors, we sought to identify the molecules that are responsible for mediating the effect of cocaine on cell cycle regulation.
Methods and Findings
Microarray analysis followed by quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR was used to screen cocaine-responsive and cell cycle-related genes in a neural progenitor cell line where cocaine exposure caused a robust anti-proliferative effect by interfering with the G1-to-S transition. Cyclin A2, among genes related to the G1-to-S cell cycle transition, was most strongly down-regulated by cocaine. Down-regulation of cyclin A was also found in cocaine-treated human primary neural and A2B5+ progenitor cells, as well as in rat fetal brains exposed to cocaine in utero. Reversing cyclin A down-regulation by gene transfer counteracted the proliferation inhibition caused by cocaine. Further, we found that cocaine-induced accumulation of reactive oxygen species, which involves N-oxidation of cocaine via cytochrome P450, promotes cyclin A down-regulation by causing an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response, as indicated by increased phosphorylation of eIF2α and expression of ATF4. In the developing rat brain, the P450 inhibitor cimetidine counteracted cocaine-induced inhibition of neural progenitor cell proliferation as well as down-regulation of cyclin A.
Conclusions
Our results demonstrate that down-regulation of cyclin A underlies cocaine-induced proliferation inhibition in neural progenitors. The down-regulation of cyclin A is initiated by N-oxidative metabolism of cocaine and consequent ER stress. Inhibition of cocaine N-oxidative metabolism by P450 inhibitors may provide a preventive strategy for counteracting the adverse effects of cocaine on fetal brain development.
Investigating the mechanism of cocaine's effect on fetal brain development, Chun-Ting Lee and colleagues find that down-regulation of cyclin A by a cocaine metabolite inhibits neural proliferation.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, cocaine abuse by mothers during pregnancy exposes thousands of unborn infants (fetuses) to this powerful and addictive stimulant. Maternal cocaine abuse during early pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage; its use during late pregnancy slows the baby's growth and can trigger premature labor. Babies exposed to cocaine shortly before birth are often irritable and have disturbed sleep patterns. They can also be very sensitive to sound and touch and consequently hard to comfort. These problems usually resolve spontaneously within the first few weeks of life but some permanent birth defects are also associated with frequent cocaine abuse during pregnancy. In particular, babies exposed to cocaine before birth sometimes have small heads—an abnormality that generally indicates a small brain—and, although they usually have normal intelligence, the development of their thinking skills and language is often delayed, and they can have behavioral problems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Exposure to cocaine before birth clearly interferes with some aspects of brain development. More specifically, it reduces the number and position of neurons (the cells that transmit information in the form of electrical impulses around the body) within the brain. All neurons develop from neural progenitor cells, and previous research suggests that cocaine exposure before birth inhibits the proliferation of these cells in the developing brain. It would be useful to understand exactly how cocaine affects neural progenitor cells, because it might then be possible to prevent the drug's adverse effects on brain development. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the molecular mechanism that underlies cocaine's effect on neural progenitor cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
When the researchers investigated the effects of cocaine on AF5 cells (rat neural progenitor cells that grow indefinitely in the laboratory), they found that concentrations of cocaine similar to those measured in fetal brains after maternal drug exposure inhibited the proliferation of AF5 cells by blocking the “G1-to-S transition.” This is a stage that cells have to pass through between each round of cell division (the production of two daughter cells from one parent cell). Next, the researchers showed that cocaine-treated AF5 cells made much less cyclin A2, a protein that controls the G1-to-S transition, than untreated cells. Cocaine also decreased cyclin A2 levels in neural progenitor cells freshly isolated from human fetal brains and in fetal rat brains exposed to the drug while in their mother's womb. Treatment of AF5 cells with a cyclin A2 expression vector (a piece of DNA that directs the production of cyclin A2) counteracted the down-regulation of cyclin A2 and restored AF5 proliferation in the presence of cocaine. Other experiments indicate that the reduction of cyclin A2 by cocaine in AF5 cells involves the accumulation of “reactive oxygen species,” by-products of the breakdown of cocaine by a protein that is a member of a family of proteins called cytochrome P450. Finally, treatment of pregnant rats with cimetidine (which inhibits the action of cytochrome P450) counteracted both the inhibition of neural progenitor cell proliferation and the cyclin A2 down-regulation that cocaine exposure induced in the brains of their unborn pups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the cocaine-induced inhibition of neural progenitor cell proliferation involves, at least in part, interfering with the production (that is, causing down-regulation) of cyclin A2. They also show that this down-regulation is induced by the breakdown of cocaine by cytochrome P450, and that in both a rat cell line and in fetal rats, the cytochrome P450 inhibitor cimetidine (a drug that is already used clinically for stomach problems) can block the adverse effects of cocaine on the proliferation of neural progenitor cells. These findings need to be confirmed in animals more closely related to people than rats, and the long-term effects of cimetidine need to be investigated, in particular its effects on cocaine toxicity. Nevertheless these results raise the possibility that giving cimetidine or other drugs with similar effects to pregnant women who are addicted to cocaine might prevent some of the harm that their drug habit does to their unborn children, although it is not clear whether there is a dosage of cimetidine that might be both safe and adequate for this purpose.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050117.
A PLoS Medicine Perspective article by Steven Hyman further discusses this study
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a fact sheet on cocaine (in English and Spanish)
The UK charity Release provides information and advice to the public and professionals about the law and drugs, including information about cocaine
MedlinePlus also provides a list of links to information about cocaine (in English and Spanish)
The March of Dimes Foundation, a US nonprofit organization for the improvement of child health, provides information about illicit drug use during pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists also provides a fact sheet on cocaine and pregnancy (in English, Spanish, and French)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050117
PMCID: PMC2504032  PMID: 18593214
2.  Level of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Scores on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development: Modifying Effects of Caregiver, Early Intervention, and Birth Weight 
Pediatrics  2002;110(6):1143-1152.
Objectives
The objectives of this study were 1) to assess whether there is an independent association between the level of prenatal cocaine exposure and infants’ developmental test scores after control of potential confounding variables; and 2) if such an association exists, to determine which biological and social variables, individually and in interaction with each other, may modify it.
Methods
In a prospective, longitudinal study of 203 urban term infants, 3 cocaine exposure groups were defined by maternal report and infant meconium assay: unexposed, heavier cocaine exposure (> 75th percentile self-reported days of use or meconium benzoylecognine concentration), or lighter cocaine exposure (all others). Examiners, masked to exposure history, tested infants at 6, 12, and 24 months of age with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development.
Results
The final mixed linear regression model included as fixed covariates level of prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol, and cigarettes; prenatal marijuana exposure; gestational age and birth weight z score for gestational age; and gender. Age at test, caregiver at time of each test (biological mother, kinship caregiver, unrelated foster caregiver), and any previous child-focused early intervention were included as time-dependent covariates. There were no significant adverse main effects of level of cocaine exposure on Mental Development Index (MDI), Psychomotor Development Index (PDI), or Infant Behavior Record. Child-focused early intervention interacted with level of cocaine exposure such that heavily exposed children who received such intervention showed higher adjusted mean MDI scores than all other groups. Although the sample was born at or near term, there was also a significant interaction of cocaine exposure and gestational age on MDI scores, with those in the heavier exposure group born at slightly lower gestational age having higher mean MDI scores compared with other children born at that gestational age.
There was also a significant interaction on MDI between child’s age and caregiver. At 6 months, the adjusted MDI of children living with a kinship caregiver was 15.5 points lower than that of children living with their biological mother, but this effect was diminished and was no longer significant at 24 months (difference in means: 4.3 points). The adjusted mean MDI of children in unrelated foster care at 6 months was 8.2 points lower than children of biological mothers, whereas it was 7.3 points higher at 24 months.
Early intervention attenuated the age-related decline in PDI scores for all groups. Birth weight < 10th percentile was associated with lower PDI scores for children with heavier cocaine exposure and with lower MDI scores for all groups.
Conclusions
Heavier prenatal cocaine exposure is not an independent risk factor for depressed scores on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development up to 24 months of age when term infants are compared with lighter exposed or unexposed infants of the same demographic background. Cocaine-exposed infants with birth weight below the 10th percentile for gestational age and gender and those placed with kinship caregivers are at increased risk for less optimal developmental outcomes. Pediatric clinicians should refer cocaine-exposed children to the child-focused developmental interventions available for all children at developmental risk.
PMCID: PMC2366173  PMID: 12456912
cocaine; pregnancy; meconium; child development; early intervention; kinship care; foster care
3.  The Effects of Prenatal Cocaine-Exposure on Problem Behavior in Children 4-10 Years 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2010;32(4):443-451.
Background
Children prenatally exposed to cocaine may be at increased risk for behavioral problems due to disruptions of monaminergically regulated arousal systems and/or environmental conditions.
Objective
To assess behavioral outcomes of cocaine (CE) and non-cocaine exposed (NCE) children, 4 through 10 years old, controlling for other prenatal drug exposures and environmental factors.
Methods
Low socioeconomic status (SES), primarily African-American children (n = 381 (193 (CE), 188 (NCE)) were recruited from birth. Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) analyses were used to assess the predictive relationship of prenatal cocaine exposure to odds of caregiver reported clinically elevated behavioral problems at 4, 6, 9 and 10 years of age, controlling for confounders.
Results
Prenatal cocaine exposure was associated with increased rates of caregiver reported delinquency (OR=1.93, CI: 1.09-3.42, p<.02). A significant prenatal cocaine exposure by sex interaction was found for delinquency indicating that only females were affected (OR=3.57, CI: 1.67-7.60, p<.001). There was no effect of cocaine on increased odds of other CBCL subscales. Higher prenatal tobacco exposure was associated with increased odds of externalizing symptoms at 4, 9 and 10 years of age. For CE children, those in foster or adoptive care were rated as having more behavior problems than those in biologic mother or relative care. Greater caregiver psychological distress was associated with increased behavioral problems. There were no independent effects of elevated blood lead level on increased behavior problems after control for prenatal drug exposure and other environmental conditions.
Conclusion
Prenatal cocaine and tobacco exposure were associated with greater externalizing behavior after control for multiple prenatal drug exposures, other environmental and caregiving factors and lead exposure from 4 through 10 years of age. Greater caregiver psychological distress negatively affected caregiver ratings of all CBCL domains. Since cocaine and tobacco use during pregnancy and maternal psychological distress have the potential to be altered through prenatal educational, drug treatment and and mental health interventions, they warrant attention in efforts to reduce rates of problem behaviors in children.
doi:10.1016/j.ntt.2010.03.005
PMCID: PMC3586186  PMID: 20227491
behavior; delinquency; prenatal cocaine-exposure; lead exposure; longitudinal
4.  Maternal Overweight and Obesity and Risks of Severe Birth-Asphyxia-Related Complications in Term Infants: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Sweden 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(5):e1001648.
Martina Persson and colleagues use a Swedish national database to investigate the association between maternal body mass index in early pregnancy and severe asphyxia-related outcomes in infants delivered at term.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Maternal overweight and obesity increase risks of pregnancy and delivery complications and neonatal mortality, but the mechanisms are unclear. The objective of the study was to investigate associations between maternal body mass index (BMI) in early pregnancy and severe asphyxia-related outcomes in infants delivered at term (≥37 weeks).
Methods and Findings
A nation-wide Swedish cohort study based on data from the Medical Birth Register included all live singleton term births in Sweden between 1992 and 2010. Logistic regression analyses were used to obtain odds ratios (ORs) with 95% CIs for Apgar scores between 0 and 3 at 5 and 10 minutes, meconium aspiration syndrome, and neonatal seizures, adjusted for maternal height, maternal age, parity, mother's smoking habits, education, country of birth, and year of infant birth. Among 1,764,403 term births, 86% had data on early pregnancy BMI and Apgar scores. There were 1,380 infants who had Apgar score 0–3 at 5 minutes (absolute risk  = 0.8 per 1,000) and 894 had Apgar score 0–3 at 10 minutes (absolute risk  = 0.5 per 1,000). Compared with infants of mothers with normal BMI (18.5–24.9), the adjusted ORs (95% CI) for Apgar scores 0–3 at 10 minutes were as follows: BMI 25–29.9: 1.32 (1.10–1.58); BMI 30–34.9: 1.57 (1.20–2.07); BMI 35–39.9: 1.80 (1.15–2.82); and BMI ≥40: 3.41 (1.91–6.09). The ORs for Apgar scores 0–3 at 5 minutes, meconium aspiration, and neonatal seizures increased similarly with maternal BMI. A study limitation was lack of data on effects of obstetric interventions and neonatal resuscitation efforts.
Conclusion
Risks of severe asphyxia-related outcomes in term infants increase with maternal overweight and obesity. Given the high prevalence of the exposure and the severity of the outcomes studied, the results are of potential public health relevance and should be confirmed in other populations. Prevention of overweight and obesity in women of reproductive age is important to improve perinatal health.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Economic, technologic, and lifestyle changes over the past 30 years have created an abundance of cheap, accessible, high-calorie food. Combined with fewer demands for physical activity, this situation has lead to increasing body mass throughout most of the world. Consequently, being overweight or obese is much more common in many high-income and low-and middle-income countries compared to 1980. Worldwide estimates put the percentage of overweight or obese adults as increasing by over 10%, between 1980 and 2008.
As being overweight becomes a global epidemic, its prevalence in women of reproductive age has also increased. Pregnant women who are overweight or obese are a cause for concern because of the possible associated health risks to both the infant and mother. Research is necessary to more clearly define these risks.
Why Was This Study Done?
In this study, the researchers investigated the complications associated with excess maternal weight that could hinder an infant from obtaining enough oxygen during delivery (neonatal asphyxia). All fetuses experience a loss of oxygen during contractions, however, a prolonged loss of oxygen can impact an infant's long-term development. To explore this risk, the researchers relied on a universal scoring system known as the Apgar score. An Apgar score is routinely recorded at one, five, and ten minutes after birth and is calculated from an assessment of heart rate, respiratory effort, and color, along with reflexes and muscle tone. An oxygen deficit during delivery will have an impact on the score. A normal score is in the range of 7–10. Body mass index (BMI) a calculation that uses height and weight, was used to assess the weight status (i.e., normal, overweight, obese) of the mother during pregnancy.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using the Swedish medical birth registry (a database including nearly all the births occurring in Sweden since 1973) the researchers selected records for single births that took place between 1992 to 2010. The registry also incorporates prenatal care data and researchers further selected for records that included weight and height measurement taken during the first prenatal visit. BMI was calculated using the weight and height measurement. Based on BMI ranges that define weight groups as normal, overweight, and obesity grades I, II, and III, the researchers analyzed and compared the number of low Apgar scoring infants (Apgar 0–3) in each group. Mothers with normal weight gave birth to the majority of infants with Apgar 0–3. In comparison the proportion of low Apgar scores were greater in babies of overweight and obese mothers. The researchers found that the rates of low Apgar scores increased with maternal BMI: the authors found that rates of low Apgar score at 5 minutes increased from 0.4 per 1,000 among infants of underweight women (BMI <18.5) to 2.4 per 1,000 among infants of women with obesity class III (BMI ≥40). Furthermore, overweight (BMI 25.0–29.9) was associated with a 55% increased risk of low Apgar scores at 5 minutes; obesity grade I (BMI 30–34.9) and grade II (BMI 35.0–39.9) with an almost 2-fold and a more than 2-fold increased risk, respectively; and obesity grade ΙΙΙ (BMI ≥40.0) with a more than 3-fold increase in risk. Finally, maternal overweight and obesity also increase the risks for seizures and meconium aspiration in the neonate.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the risk of experiencing an oxygen deficit increases for the babies of women who are overweight or obese. Given the high prevalence of overweight and obesity in many countries worldwide, these findings are important and suggest that preventing women of reproductive age from becoming overweight or obese is therefore important to the health of their children.
A limitation of this study is the lack of data on the effects of clinical interventions and neonatal resuscitation efforts that may have been performed at the time of birth. Also Apgar scoring is based on five variables and a low score is not the most direct way to determine if the infant has experienced an oxygen deficit. However, these findings suggest that early detection of perinatal asphyxia is particularly relevant among infants of overweight and obese women although more studies are necessary to confirm the results in other populations.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001648.
The US National Institutes of Health explains and calculates body mass index
The NIH also defines the Apgar scoring system
The United Kingdom's National Health Service has information for pregnant woman who are overweight
The UK-based Overseas Development Institute discusses how changes in diet have led to a worldwide health crisis in its “Future Diets” publication
Information about the Swedish health care system is available
Information in English is available from the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001648
PMCID: PMC4028185  PMID: 24845218
5.  Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Childhood Obesity at Nine Years 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2010;33(2):188-197.
Little is known about the association between prenatal cocaine exposure and obesity. We tested whether prenatal cocaine exposure increases the likelihood of obesity in 561 9-year-old term children from the Maternal Lifestyle Study (MLS). Overall, 21.6% of children met criterion for obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 95th percentile, age and sex-specific). While there was no overall cocaine effect on obesity, multivariate logistic analysis revealed that children exposed to cocaine but not alcohol were 4 times more likely to be obese (OR 4.11, CI 2.04–9.76) than children not exposed to either drug. No increase in obesity prevalence was found in children exposed to alcohol but not cocaine (OR 1.08, CI .59–1.93) or both (OR 1.21, CI 0.66–2.22). Alcohol exposure may attenuate the effect of cocaine exposure on obesity. Increased obesity associated with cocaine but not alcohol exposure was first observed at 7 years. BMI was also elevated from 3 to 9 years in children exposed to cocaine but not alcohol, due to increasing weight but normal height. Prenatal exposure to cocaine may alter the neuroendocrine system and metabolic processes resulting in increased weight gain and childhood obesity.
doi:10.1016/j.ntt.2010.11.002
PMCID: PMC3058125  PMID: 21109003
Prenatal cocaine exposure; prenatal alcohol exposure; childhood obesity; growth; fetal origins
6.  Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Small-for-Gestational-Age Status: Effects on Growth at 6 Years of age 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2011;33(5):575-581.
OBJECTIVE
To evaluate the impact of prenatal cocaine exposure and small-for-gestational-age (SGA) status on childhood growth.
STUDY DESIGN
Cocaine exposure was defined by history or meconium metabolites. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to examine cocaine exposure and SGA status on growth, while controlling for exposure to other drugs and alcohol use.
RESULTS
At birth cocaine-exposed infants (n=364) had significantly lower growth parameters compared to non-exposed children (n=771). At 6 years, weight was similar between exposed and unexposed children. SGA infants continued to be growth impaired. There was a significant interaction between prenatal cocaine exposure and SGA status at 6 years. The negative effects of cocaine on weight and height were greater among non-SGA than SGA children (432 vs. 280 gm, and 0.7 and 0.5 cm, respectively) while negative effects of SGA status on weight and height were larger in non-cocaine exposed compared to the exposed children (2.3 kg vs.1.6 kg and 2.2 and 1.0 cm).
CONCLUSIONS
Children exposed to prenatal cocaine were similar in weight to non-exposed children at 6 years of age. Cocaine had an unexplained greater detrimental effect on non-SGA than SGA children. SGA status at birth has an independent detrimental effect on childhood growth.
doi:10.1016/j.ntt.2011.04.003
PMCID: PMC3183411  PMID: 21849244
Prenatal cocaine exposure; small for gestational age; childhood growth
7.  Neurobehavioral and Developmental Traiectories Associated with Level of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure 
Introduction
In experimental models, prenatal cocaine exposure has been found to perturb GABA and dopamine development. Clinically, abnormalities in tone, posture and state regulation are noted in early infancy but the evolution of these findings over time is not well described. The current study assesses the longitudinal effects of prenatal cocaine exposure in dose-dependent fashion on developmental & behavioral and neurological trajectories over the first 2 years of life.
Methods
Three hundred and eighty infants, 113 cocaine-exposed, were enrolled at birth from an urban hospital from 2000 to 2004. Exposure was determined by maternal interview, segmental hair analyses (RIAH™) in all, and meconium and urine in a subset. Developmental, behavioral and neurological assessments were carried out blind to drug exposure at 6, 12 and 24 months of age in the 306 children who returned in follow-up. Mixed-effects linear modeling (developmental growth curve) assessed change in outcome over time.
Results
The mental developmental growth curve showed a negative slope (2.2 points) in adjusted analyses among cocaine-exposed children over the first 2 years of life. (p=.04), while the slope of the motor development growth curve did not. Adjusting for microcephaly at 6 months diminished the strength of the association between cocaine exposure and mental developmental growth curve (effect modification). Cocaine exposure was marginally associated with behavioral outcomes in adjusted analyses. Total Behavior scores and Orientation/Engagement scores improved with age. At 1 year of age, prenatal cocaine exposure was significantly associated with lower motor development scores. High rates of hypertonia (global and diparesis) identified at the 6-month visit dropped dramatically in the first 2 years of life: cocaine-exposed children showed a more rapid rate of resolution of hypertonia than unexposed children, with hypertonia improving 2.2 times faster among those with heavy cocaine exposure.
Conclusion
We found differences in mental performance over the first 2 years of life associated with prenatal cocaine exposure that was mediated by microcephaly implying that cocaine exerts a sustained teratogenic effect on brain development. Early neurological (hypertonia) and behavioral findings associated with prenatal cocaine exposure improved over time. Hypertonia did not predict long-term development impairments. Conceivably, the transient nature of neurobehavioral manifestations reflects postnatally a tendency towards homeostasis of cocaine-related embryopathic perturbations of GABA and dopaminergic systems.
doi:10.13188/2332-3469.1000015
PMCID: PMC4318507  PMID: 25664330
Perinatal; Cocaine exposure; Behavior; Drug use; Hypertonia; Neurologic; Child development
8.  Severity of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Child Language Functioning Through Age Seven Years: A Longitudinal Latent Growth Curve Analysis 
Substance use & misuse  2004;39(1):25-59.
The current study estimates the longitudinal effects of severity of prenatal cocaine exposure on language functioning in an urban sample of full-term African-American children (200 cocaine-exposed, 176 noncocaine-exposed) through age 7 years. The Miami Prenatal Cocaine Study sample was enrolled prospectively at birth, with documentation of prenatal drug exposure status through maternal interview and toxicology assays of maternal and infant urine and infant meconium. Language functioning was measured at ages 3 and 5 years using the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–Preschool (CELF-P) and at age 7 years using the Core Language Domain of the NEPSY: A Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment. Longitudinal latent growth curve analyses were used to examine two components of language functioning, a more stable aptitude for language performance and a time-varying trajectory of language development, across the three time points and their relationship to varying levels of prenatal cocaine exposure. Severity of prenatal cocaine exposure was characterized using a latent construct combining maternal self-report of cocaine use during pregnancy by trimesters and maternal and infant bioassays, allowing all available information to be taken into account. The association between severity of exposure and language functioning was examined within a model including factors for fetal growth, gestational age, and IQ as intercorrelated response variables and child’s age, gender, and prenatal alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana exposure as covariates. Results indicated that greater severity of prenatal cocaine exposure was associated with greater deficits within the more stable aptitude for language performance (D = −0.071, 95% CI = −0.133, −0.009; p = 0.026). There was no relationship between severity of prenatal cocaine exposure and the time-varying trajectory of language development. The observed cocaine-associated deficit was independent of multiple alternative suspected sources of variation in language performance, including other potential responses to prenatal cocaine exposure, such as child’s intellectual functioning, and other birth and postnatal influences, including language stimulation in the home environment.
doi:10.1081/JA-120027765
PMCID: PMC2634602  PMID: 15002943
Prenatal cocaine exposure; Language performance
9.  Cocaine Exposure and Children's Self-Regulation: Indirect Association via Maternal Harshness 
Objectives: This study examined the association between prenatal cocaine exposure and children’s self-regulation at 3 years of child age. In addition to direct effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on children’s self-regulation, we hypothesized there would be indirect associations between cocaine exposure and self-regulation via higher maternal harshness and poor autonomic regulation in infancy. Methods: The sample consisted of 216 mother–infant dyads recruited at delivery from local area hospitals (116 cocaine-exposed, 100 non-exposed). Infant autonomic regulation was measured at 7 months of age during an anger/frustration task, maternal harshness was coded from observations of mother–toddler interactions at 2 years of age, and children’s self-regulation was measured at 3 years of age using several laboratory paradigms. Results: Contrary to hypotheses, there were no direct associations between maternal cocaine use during pregnancy and children’s self-regulation. However, results from testing our conceptual model including the indirect effects via maternal harshness or infant parasympathetic regulation indicated that this model fit the data well, χ2 (23) = 34.36, p > 0.05, Comparative Fit Index = 0.95, RMSEA = 0.05. Cocaine using mothers displayed higher intensity of harshness toward their toddlers during lab interactions across a variety of tasks at 2 years of age (β = 0.23, p < 0.05), and higher intensity of harshness at 2 years was predictive of lower self-regulation at 3 years (β = −0.36, p < 0.01). Maternal cocaine use was also predictive of a non-adaptive increase in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) from baseline to the negative affect task, but RSA change in infancy was not predictive of self-regulation at 3 years. Conclusion: Results are supportive of animal models indicating higher aggression among cocaine treated dams, and indicate that higher maternal harshness among cocaine using mothers is predictive of child self-regulatory outcomes in the preschool period.
doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00031
PMCID: PMC3115536  PMID: 21716637
cocaine exposure; self-regulation; maternal harshness; autonomic regulation
10.  Risk of Childhood Overweight after Exposure to Tobacco Smoking in Prenatal and Early Postnatal Life 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109184.
Objective
To investigate the association between exposure to mothers smoking during prenatal and early postnatal life and risk of overweight at age 7 years, while taking birth weight into account.
Methods
From the Danish National Birth Cohort a total of 32,747 families were identified with available information on maternal smoking status in child's pre- and postnatal life and child's birth weight, and weight and height at age 7 years. Outcome was overweight according to the International Obesity Task Force gender and age specific body mass index. Smoking exposure was categorized into four groups: no exposure (n = 25,076); exposure only during pregnancy (n = 3,343); exposure only postnatally (n = 140); and exposure during pregnancy and postnatally (n = 4,188). Risk of overweight according to smoking status as well as dose-response relationships were estimated by crude and adjusted odds ratios using logistic regression models.
Results
Exposure to smoking only during pregnancy, or both during pregnancy and postnatally were both significantly associated with overweight at 7 years of age (OR: 1.31, 95% CI: 1.15–1.48, and OR: 1.76, 95% CI: 1.58–1.97, respectively). Analyses excluding children with low birth weight (<2,500 gram) revealed similar results. A significant prenatal dose-response relationship was found. Per one additional cigarette smoked per day an increase in risk of overweight was observed (OR: 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01–1.03). When adjusting for quantity of smoking during pregnancy, prolonged exposure after birth further increased the risk of later overweight in the children (OR 1.28, 95% CI:1.09–1.50) compared with exposure only in the prenatal period.
Conclusions
Mother's perinatal smoking increased child's OR of overweight at age 7 years irrespective of birth weight, and with higher OR if exposed both during pregnancy and in early postnatal life. Clear dose-response relationships were observed, which emphasizes the need for prevention of any tobacco exposure of infants.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109184
PMCID: PMC4195647  PMID: 25310824
11.  Exposure to parental smoking and child growth and development: a cohort study 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:104.
Background
Studies on adverse childhood health and development outcomes associated with parental smoking have shown inconsistent results. Using a cohort of Belarusian children, we examined differences in cognition, behaviors, growth, adiposity, and blood pressure at 6.5 years according to prenatal and postnatal exposure to parental smoking.
Methods
Using cluster-adjusted multivariable regression, effects of exposure to prenatal smoking were examined by comparing (1) children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy with those of mothers who smoked neither during nor after pregnancy and (2) children whose mothers smoked during and after pregnancy with those whose mothers smoked after pregnancy only; effects of postnatal smoking were examined by comparing (1) children whose mothers smoked after pregnancy only with those of mothers who smoked neither during nor after pregnancy and (2) children whose fathers smoked with those whose fathers did not smoke among children of non-smoking mothers after adjusting for a wide range of socioeconomic and family characteristics.
Results
After adjusting for confounders, children exposed vs unexposed to prenatal maternal smoking had no differences in mean IQ, teacher-rated behavioral problems, adiposity, or blood pressure. Children exposed to maternal postnatal smoking had slightly increased behavioral problems [0.9, 95% CI: 0.6, 1.2 for total difficulties], higher body mass index [0.2, 95% CI: 0.1, 0.3], greater total skinfold thickness [0.4, 95% CI: 0.04, 0.71], and higher odds of overweight or obesity [1.4, 95% CI; 1.1, 1.7]. Similar magnitudes of association were observed with postnatal paternal smoking.
Conclusions
No adverse cognitive, behavioral and developmental outcomes were associated with exposure to maternal prenatal smoking. Observed associations with postnatal smoking of both parents may reflect residual confounding by genetic and family environmental factors.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-104
PMCID: PMC3717101  PMID: 23842036
12.  Psychopathology and Special Education Enrollment in Children with Prenatal Cocaine Exposure 
Objective
This study evaluated how enrollment in special education services in 11 year old children relates to prenatal cocaine exposure, psychopathology, and other risk factors.
Method
Participants were 498 children enrolled in The Maternal Lifestyle Study, a prospective, longitudinal, multisite study examining outcomes of children with prenatal cocaine exposure. Logistic regression was used to examine the effect of prenatal cocaine exposure and psychopathology on enrollment in an individualized education plan (a designation specific to children with special education needs), with environmental, maternal, and infant medical variables as covariates.
Results
Prenatal cocaine exposure, an interaction of prenatal cocaine exposure and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, child Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, parent-reported internalizing behaviors, and teacher-reported externalizing behaviors, predicted enrollment in an individualized education plan. Other statistically significant variables in the model were male gender, low birth weight, being small for gestational age, white race, caregiver change, low socio-economic status, low child intelligence quotient, caregiver depression, and prenatal marijuana exposure.
Conclusions
Prenatal cocaine exposure increased the likelihood of receiving an individualized education plan with adjustment for covariates. Psychopathology also predicted this special education outcome, in combination with and independent of prenatal cocaine exposure.
doi:10.1097/DBP.0b013e3182560cd9
PMCID: PMC3400535  PMID: 22487696
cocaine; special education; behavior; prenatal substance exposure
13.  Potential latent effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on growth and the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in childhood☆ 
The literature strongly suggests that prenatal exposure to certain medications and substances does not cause major malformations in early childhood. However, these exposures may have far-reaching latent health effects, such as restricted growth, hypertension, and cardiovascular events in adulthood. We reviewed the literature to identify the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on growth and the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in late adolescence and early adulthood by examining studies that were published in peer-reviewed English-language journals from 1990 through 2009 and indexed in MEDLINE. We found that animal and clinical studies of the influence of prenatal cocaine exposure on child and adolescent growth and the subsequent development of myocardial and cardiometabolic disease risk factors are few and inconclusive. Studies support the hypothesis that vascular and hemodynamic functions are partially programmed in early life and thus substantially influence vascular aging and arterial stiffening in later life. Sub-optimal fetal nutrition and growth may increase blood pressure and the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in late life. How prenatal cocaine and other drug exposure effects this relationship is currently unknown. Despite high rates of cocaine and other drug use during pregnancy (up to 18% in some studies), little is known about the health effects of prenatal cocaine exposure in adolescence and early adulthood. The few studies of early growth deficits persisting into adolescence are inconclusive. The literature provides little information on how exposed children grow into adulthood and about their subsequent risk of cardiometabolic and vascular disease.
doi:10.1016/j.ppedcard.2010.11.010
PMCID: PMC3037026  PMID: 21318092
Prenatal; Drug exposure; Cardiovascular disease; Pediatric; Growth; Metabolic disease
14.  Pregnancy Weight Gain and Childhood Body Weight: A Within-Family Comparison 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001521.
David Ludwig and colleagues examine the within-family relationship between pregnancy weight gain and the offspring's childhood weight gain, thereby reducing the influence of genes and environment.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Excessive pregnancy weight gain is associated with obesity in the offspring, but this relationship may be confounded by genetic and other shared influences. We aimed to examine the association of pregnancy weight gain with body mass index (BMI) in the offspring, using a within-family design to minimize confounding.
Methods and Findings
In this population-based cohort study, we matched records of all live births in Arkansas with state-mandated data on childhood BMI collected in public schools (from August 18, 2003 to June 2, 2011). The cohort included 42,133 women who had more than one singleton pregnancy and their 91,045 offspring. We examined how differences in weight gain that occurred during two or more pregnancies for each woman predicted her children's BMI and odds ratio (OR) of being overweight or obese (BMI≥85th percentile) at a mean age of 11.9 years, using a within-family design. For every additional kg of pregnancy weight gain, childhood BMI increased by 0.0220 (95% CI 0.0134–0.0306, p<0.0001) and the OR of overweight/obesity increased by 1.007 (CI 1.003–1.012, p = 0.0008). Variations in pregnancy weight gain accounted for a 0.43 kg/m2 difference in childhood BMI. After adjustment for birth weight, the association of pregnancy weight gain with childhood BMI was attenuated but remained statistically significant (0.0143 kg/m2 per kg of pregnancy weight gain, CI 0.0057–0.0229, p = 0.0007).
Conclusions
High pregnancy weight gain is associated with increased body weight of the offspring in childhood, and this effect is only partially mediated through higher birth weight. Translation of these findings to public health obesity prevention requires additional study.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Childhood obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. For example, in the United States, the number of obese children has more than doubled in the past 30 years. 7% of American children aged 6–11 years were obese in 1980, compared to nearly 18% in 2010. Because of the rising levels of obesity, the current generation of children may have a shorter life span than their parents for the first time in 200 years.
Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health. The initial problems are usually psychological. Obese children often experience discrimination, leading to low self-esteem and depression. Their physical health also suffers. They are more likely to be at risk of cardiovascular disease from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They may also develop pre-diabetes or diabetes type II. In the long-term, obese children tend to become obese adults, putting them at risk of premature death from stroke, heart disease, or cancer.
There are many factors that lead to childhood obesity and they often act in combination. A major risk factor, especially for younger children, is having at least one obese parent. The challenge lies in unravelling the complex links between the genetic and environmental factors that are likely to be involved.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several studies have shown that a child's weight is influenced by his/her mother's weight before pregnancy and her weight gain during pregnancy. An obese mother, or a mother who puts on more pregnancy weight than average, is more likely to have an obese child.
One explanation for the effects of pregnancy weight gain is that the mother's overeating directly affects the baby's development. It may change the baby's brain and metabolism in such a way as to increase the child's long-term risk of obesity. Animal studies have confirmed that the offspring of overfed rats show these kinds of physiological changes. However, another possible explanation is that mother and baby share a similar genetic make-up and environment so that a child becomes obese from inheriting genetic risk factors, and growing up in a household where being overweight is the norm.
The studies in humans that have been carried out to date have not been able to distinguish between these explanations. Some have given conflicting results. The aim of this study was therefore to look for evidence of links between pregnancy weight gain and children's weight, using an approach that would separate the impact of genetic and environmental factors from a direct effect on the developing baby.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined data from the population of the US state of Arkansas recorded between 2003 and 2011. They looked at the health records of over 42,000 women who had given birth to more than one child during this period. This gave them information about how much weight the women had gained during each of their pregnancies. The researchers also looked at the school records of the children, over 91,000 in total, which included the children's body mass index (BMI, which factors in both height and weight). They analyzed the data to see if there was a link between the mothers' pregnancy weight gain and the child's BMI at around 12 years of age. Most importantly, they looked at these links within families, comparing children born to the same mother. The rationale for this approach was that these children would share a similar genetic make-up and would have grown up in similar environments. By taking genetics and environment into account in this manner, any remaining evidence of an impact of pregnancy weight gain on the children's BMI would have to be explained by other factors.
The results showed that the amount of weight each mother gained in pregnancy predicted her children's BMI and the likelihood of her children being overweight or obese. For every additional kg the mother gained during pregnancy, the children's BMI increased by 0.022. The children of mothers who put on the most weight had a BMI that was on average 0.43 higher than the children whose mothers had put on the least weight.
The study leaves some questions unanswered, including whether the mother's weight before pregnancy makes a difference to their children's BMI. The researchers were not able to obtain these measurements, nor the weight of the fathers. There may have also been other factors that weren't measured that might explain the links that were found.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that mothers who gain excessive weight during pregnancy increase the risk of their child becoming obese. This appears to be partly due to a direct effect on the developing baby.
These results represent a significant public health concern, even though the impact on an individual basis is relatively small. They could contribute to several hundred thousand cases of childhood obesity worldwide. Importantly, they also suggest that some cases could be prevented by measures to limit excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Such an approach could prove effective, as most mothers will not want to damage their child's health, and might therefore be highly motivated to change their behavior. However, because inadequate weight gain during pregnancy can also adversely affect the developing fetus, it will be essential for women to receive clear information about what constitutes optimal weight gain during pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001521.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide Childhood Obesity Facts
The UK National Health Service article “How much weight will I put on during my pregnancy?” provides information on pregnancy and weight gain and links to related resources
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001521
PMCID: PMC3794857  PMID: 24130460
15.  Small for Gestational Age and Higher Birth Weight Predict Childhood Obesity in Preterm Infants 
American journal of perinatology  2010;27(9):721-730.
We sought to determine the association between small for gestational age (SGA), birth weight, and childhood obesity within preterm polysubstance exposed children. We sampled 312 preterm children with 11-year body mass index (BMI; age- and sex-specific) data from the Maternal Lifestyle Study (51% girls, 21.5% SGA, 46% prenatal cocaine, and 55% tobacco exposed). Multinomial regression analyzed the association between 11-year obesity (OBE) and overweight (OW) and SGA, birth weight, first-year growth velocity, diet, and physical activity variables. Overall, 24% were OBE (BMI for age ≥95th percentile) and 16.7% were OW (BMI ≥85th and <95th percentiles). In adjusted analyses, SGA was associated with OW (odds ratio [OR]=3.4, confidence interval [CI] 1.5 to 7.5). Higher birth weight was associated with OBE (OR = 1.8, CI 1.3 to 2.4) and OW (OR=1.4, CI 1.1 to 2.0). Growth velocity was associated with OBE (OR=2.7, CI 1.8 to 4.0) and OW (OR=1.6, CI 1.1 to 2.4). Low exercise was associated with OBE (OR=2.1, CI 1.0 to 4.4) and OW (OR=2.1, CI 1.0 to 4.5). There was no effect of substance exposure on obesity outcomes. Many (41%) of these high-risk preterm 11-year-olds were obese/overweight. Multiple growth-related processes may be involved in obesity risk for preterm children, including fetal programming as indicated by the SGA effect.
doi:10.1055/s-0030-1253555
PMCID: PMC2949419  PMID: 20408111
Childhood obesity; premature birth; infant SGA; birth weight; exercise; prenatal drug exposure
16.  Growth, Development, and Behavior in Early Childhood Following Prenatal Cocaine Exposure 
Context
Despite recent studies that failed to show catastrophic effects of prenatal cocaine exposure, popular attitudes and public policies still reflect the belief that cocaine is a uniquely dangerous teratogen.
Objective
To critically review outcomes in early childhood after prenatal cocaine exposure in 5 domains: physical growth; cognition; language skills; motor skills; and behavior, attention, affect, and neurophysiology.
Data Sources
Search of MEDLINE and Psychological Abstracts from 1984 to October 2000.
Study Selection
Studies selected for detailed review (1) were published in a peerreviewed English-language journal; (2) included a comparison group; (3) recruited samples prospectively in the perinatal period; (4) used masked assessment; and (5) did not include a substantial proportion of subjects exposed in utero to opiates, amphetamines, phencyclidine, or maternal human immunodeficiency virus infection.
Data Extraction
Thirty-six of 74 articles met criteria and were reviewed by 3 authors. Disagreements were resolved by consensus.
Data Synthesis
After controlling for confounders, there was no consistent negative association between prenatal cocaine exposure and physical growth, developmental test scores, or receptive or expressive language. Less optimal motor scores have been found up to age 7 months but not thereafter, and may reflect heavy tobacco exposure. No independent cocaine effects have been shown on standardized parent and teacher reports of child behavior scored by accepted criteria. Experimental paradigms and novel statistical manipulations of standard instruments suggest an association between prenatal cocaine exposure and decreased attentiveness and emotional expressivity, as well as differences on neurophysiologic and attentional/affective findings.
Conclusions
Among children aged 6 years or younger, there is no convincing evidence that prenatal cocaine exposure is associated with developmental toxic effects that are different in severity, scope, or kind from the sequelae of multiple other risk factors. Many findings once thought to be specific effects of in utero cocaine exposure are correlated with other factors, including prenatal exposure to tobacco, marijuana, or alcohol, and the quality of the child’s environment. Further replication is required of preliminary neurologic findings.
PMCID: PMC2504866  PMID: 11268270
17.  Fetal alcohol-related growth restriction from birth through young adulthood and moderating effects of maternal prepregnancy weight 
Background
Fetal alcohol-related growth restriction persists through infancy but its impact later in life is less clear. Animal studies have demonstrated important roles for maternal nutrition in FASD, but the impact of prenatal maternal body composition has not been studied in humans. This study examined the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on longitudinal growth from birth through young adulthood and the degree to which maternal weight and body mass index (BMI) moderate these effects.
Methods
480 mothers were recruited at their first prenatal clinic visit to over-represent moderate-to-heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy, including a 5% random sample of low-level drinkers and abstainers. They were interviewed at every prenatal visit about their alcohol consumption using a timeline follow-back approach. Their children were examined for weight, length/height, and head circumference at birth, 6.5 and 13 months, and 7.5, 14, and 19 years.
Results
In multiple regression models with repeated measures (adjusted for confounders), prenatal alcohol exposure was associated with longitudinal reductions in weight, height, and weight-for-length/BMI that were largely determined at birth. At low-to-moderate levels of exposure, these effects were more severe in infancy than in later childhood. By contrast, effects persisted among children whose mothers drank at least monthly and among those born to women with alcohol abuse and/or dependence who had consumed ≥4 drinks/occasion. In addition, effects on weight, height, and head circumference were markedly stronger among children born to mothers with lower prepregnancy weight.
Conclusions
These findings confirm prior studies demonstrating alcohol-related reductions in weight, height, weight-for-height/BMI, and head circumference that persist through young adulthood. Stronger effects were seen among children born to mothers with smaller prepregnancy weight, which may have been due to attainment of higher blood alcohol concentrations in smaller mothers for a given amount of alcohol intake or to increased vulnerability in infants born to women with poorer nutrition.
doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01940.x
PMCID: PMC3743666  PMID: 23013325
fetal alcohol syndrome; prenatal alcohol exposure; intrauterine growth retardation; postnatal growth; body composition; prepregnancy weight; maternal nutrition
18.  Overweight at age two years in a multi-ethnic cohort (ABCD study): the role of prenatal factors, birth outcomes and postnatal factors 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:611.
Background
Childhood overweight/obesity is a major public health problem worldwide which disproportionally affects specific ethnic groups. Little is known about whether such differences already exist at an early age and which factors contribute to these ethnic differences. Therefore, the present study assessed possible ethnic differences in overweight at age 2 years, and the potential explanatory role of prenatal factors, birth outcomes and postnatal factors.
Methods
Data were derived from a multi-ethnic cohort in the Netherlands (the ABCD study). Weight and height data of 3,156 singleton infants at age 2 years were used. Five ethnic populations were distinguished: Dutch native (n = 1,718), African descent (n = 238), Turkish (n = 162), Moroccan (n = 245) and other non-Dutch (n = 793). Overweight status was defined by the International Obesity Task Force guidelines. The explanatory role of prenatal factors, birth outcomes and postnatal factors in ethnic disparities in overweight (including obesity) was assessed by logistic regression analysis.
Results
Compared to the native Dutch (7.1%), prevalence of overweight was higher in the Turkish (19.8%) and Moroccan (16.7%) group, whereas the prevalence was not increased in the African descent (9.2%) and other non-Dutch (8.8%) group. Although maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index partly explained the ethnic differences, the odds ratio (OR) of being overweight remained higher in the Turkish (OR: 2.66; 95%CI: 1.56-4.53) and Moroccan (OR: 2.11; 95%CI: 1.31-3.38) groups after adjusting for prenatal factors. The remaining differences were largely accounted for by weight gain during the first 6 months of life (postnatal factor). Maternal height, birth weight and gender were independent predictors for overweight at age 2 years, but did not explain the ethnic differences.
Conclusion
Turkish and Moroccan children in the Netherlands have 2- to 3-fold higher odds for being overweight at age 2 years, which is largely attributed to maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and weight gain during the first 6 months of life. Further study on the underlying factors of this early weight gain is required to tackle ethnic differences in overweight among these children.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-611
PMCID: PMC3171368  PMID: 21806791
body mass index (BMI); childhood; ethnicity; overweight; weight gain
19.  Level of In Utero Cocaine Exposure and Neonatal Ultrasound Findings 
Pediatrics  1999;104(5 Pt 1):1101-1105.
Objective
To assess whether there is an association between the level of in utero cocaine exposure and findings on neonatal cranial ultrasound, controlling for potentially confounding variables.
Study Design
In a prospective longitudinal study, three cocaine exposure groups were defined by maternal report and infant meconium assay: unexposed, heavier cocaine exposure (>75th percentile self-reported days of use or of meconium benzoylecogonine concentration) or lighter cocaine exposure (all others). Neonatal ultrasounds from 241 well, term infants were read by a single radiologist who was masked to the exposure group.
Results
Infants with lighter cocaine exposure did not differ from the unexposed infants on any ultrasound findings. After controlling for infant gender, gestational age, and birth weight z scores and for maternal parity, blood pressure in labor, ethnicity, and use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana during pregnancy, the more heavily cocaine-exposed infants were more likely than the unexposed infants to show subependymal hemorrhage in the caudothalamic groove (covariate adjusted odds ratio: 3.88; 95% confidence interval: 1.45, 10.35).
Conclusions
This is the first study to demonstrate that ultrasound findings suggestive of vascular injury to the neonatal central nervous system are related to the level of prenatal cocaine exposure. Inconsistency in previous research in identifying an association between prenatal cocaine exposure and neonatal cranial ultrasound findings may reflect failure to consider dose effects.
doi:10.1542/peds.104.5.1101
PMCID: PMC2365465  PMID: 10545554
20.  Neurobehavioral Deficits and Increased Blood Pressure in School-Age Children Prenatally Exposed to Pesticides 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;118(6):890-896.
Background
The long-term neurotoxicity risks caused by prenatal exposures to pesticides are unclear, but a previous pilot study of Ecuadorian school children suggested that blood pressure and visuospatial processing may be vulnerable.
Objectives
In northern Ecuador, where floriculture is intensive and relies on female employment, we carried out an intensive cross-sectional study to assess children’s neurobehavioral functions at 6–8 years of age.
Methods
We examined all 87 children attending two grades in the local public school with an expanded battery of neurobehavioral tests. Information on pesticide exposure during the index pregnancy was obtained from maternal interview. The children’s current pesticide exposure was assessed from the urinary excretion of organophosphate metabolites and erythrocyte acetylcholine esterase activity.
Results
Of 84 eligible participants, 35 were exposed to pesticides during pregnancy via maternal occupational exposure, and 23 had indirect exposure from paternal work. Twenty-two children had detectable current exposure irrespective of their prenatal exposure status. Only children with prenatal exposure from maternal greenhouse work showed consistent deficits after covariate adjustment, which included stunting and socioeconomic variables. Exposure-related deficits were the strongest for motor speed (Finger Tapping Task), motor coordination (Santa Ana Form Board), visuospatial performance (Stanford-Binet Copying Test), and visual memory (Stanford-Binet Copying Recall Test). These associations corresponded to a developmental delay of 1.5–2 years. Prenatal pesticide exposure was also significantly associated with an average increase of 3.6 mmHg in systolic blood pressure and a slight decrease in body mass index of 1.1 kg/m2. Inclusion of the pilot data strengthened these results.
Conclusions
These findings support the notion that prenatal exposure to pesticides—at levels not producing adverse health outcomes in the mother—can cause lasting adverse effects on brain development in children. Pesticide exposure therefore may contribute to a “silent pandemic” of developmental neurotoxicity.
doi:10.1289/ehp.0901582
PMCID: PMC2898869  PMID: 20185383
acetylcholinesterase; blood pressure; maternal exposure; neurotoxicity syndromes; occupational exposure; organophosphorus compounds; pesticides; prenatal exposure delayed effects
21.  Reduced Antibody Responses to Vaccinations in Children Exposed to Polychlorinated Biphenyls 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(8):e311.
Background
Developmental exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been implicated as a possible cause of deficient immune function in children. This study was designed to assess whether prenatal and postnatal exposure to PCBs impacts on antibody response to childhood immunizations.
Methods and Findings
Two birth cohorts were formed in the Faroe Islands, where exposures vary widely, because traditional diets may include whale blubber contaminated with PCBs. Prenatal exposure was determined from maternal concentrations of PCBs in pregnancy serum and milk. Following routine childhood vaccinations against tetanus and diphtheria, 119 children were examined at 18 mo and 129 children at 7 y of age, and their serum samples were analyzed for tetanus and diphtheria toxoid antibodies and for PCBs. The antibody response to diphtheria toxoid decreased at age 18 mo by 24.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.63–41.9; p = 0.04) for each doubling of the cumulative PCB exposure at the time of examination. The diphtheria response was lower at age 7 y and was not associated with the exposure. However, the tetanus toxoid antibody response was affected mainly at age 7 y, decreasing by 16.5% (95% CI, 1.51–29.3; p = 0.03) for each doubling of the prenatal exposure. Structural equation analysis showed that the early postnatal exposure was the most important predictor of a decreased vaccination response.
Conclusions
Increased perinatal exposure to PCBs may adversely impact on immune responses to childhood vaccinations. The clinical implications of insufficient antibody production emphasize the need for prevention of immunotoxicant exposures.
A study of two birth cohorts in the Faroe Islands, where diets may include whale blubber contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), suggests exposure to PCBs may reduce immune response to childhood vaccinations.
Editors' Summary
Background.
These days, mothers are as likely to worry about potential side-effects of childhood vaccinations as about whether they completely protect their child against infections. But healthy children vary in how well vaccinations “take.” After tetanus and diphtheria vaccination, for example, some children produce large quantities of antibodies that protect them against these serious bacterial diseases; others make a weaker, sometimes inadequate, immune response. What causes this variation is unclear, but one possibility is that the developing immune system is damaged in some babies by exposure both before birth and after birth through breast milk to “immunotoxicants” such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These stable, man-made chemicals, which were widely used last century as insulators in electrical equipment and as fire retardants, accumulate and persist in the environment where they affect animal and human health. PCB-exposed babies often have a small thymus (the gland where immune system cells mature), make decreased amounts of antibodies, and have more childhood infections.
Why Was This Study Done?
Given these observations, could exposure to PCBs be partly responsible for the variable immunological responses of children to vaccination? If it is, and if environmental PCB levels remain high, it might be necessary to adapt more intensive vaccination programs so that all children are adequately protected against infectious diseases. In this study, the researchers examined whether prenatal and postnatal exposure to PCBs affects antibody responses to childhood vaccinations
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled two groups of children—one group born in 1994–1995, the other in 1999–2001—living on the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. Here, people are exposed to high levels of PCBs through eating contaminated whale blubber. All the children received routine vaccinations against diphtheria and tetanus. The bacteria that cause these illnesses do so by producing a “toxoid,” so a harmless quantity of these toxic proteins is injected to stimulate a protective antibody response. For the older group, a blood sample was taken when they were seven and half years old to test for antibodies against diphtheria and tetanus toxoids; for the younger group, a sample was taken at 18 months. The exposure of the children to PCBs was assessed by measuring PCBs in their mothers' blood during pregnancy, in their mothers' milk soon after birth, and in their own blood when their antibodies were tested. The researchers found that the antibody response to diphtheria toxoid in the younger group of children was reduced by nearly a quarter for every doubling in their total exposure to PCBs. The tetanus toxoid response in the older children was reduced by a similar amount by prenatal exposure to PCBs. Although most of the children made enough antibodies to both toxoids to provide protection, about a fifth of the older children—mainly those with the highest exposures to PCBs—had worryingly low levels of diphtheria toxoid antibodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results reveal an association between exposure to PCBs, particularly soon after birth, and a reduction in immunoprotection after childhood vaccinations. It is not clear, however, exactly how big this effect may be. This is uncertain for two reasons. First, the estimates of how much antibody responses are reduced by doubling PCB exposure are imprecise—for the younger children this change in exposure might actually have very little effect on their response to diphtheria vaccination or it could halve their response. Second, the estimates of PCB exposures are based on only three samples of body fluids so provide only a crude indication of exposure. Nevertheless, these results in children exposed to high levels of PCBs indicate that the immune function of children might also be adversely affected by the lower levels of PCBs found elsewhere in the world. Although the changes in immune function are subtle, they could be clinically important, write the researchers, and might affect both the general health of children and the degree of protection against infectious diseases that vaccination provides. Finally, these findings suggest that efforts must be stepped up to reduce PCB exposure levels to protect the sensitive immune systems of young children from these potent immunotoxicants.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030311.
Tox Town, a Web site available from the US National Institutes of Health, provides an introduction to toxic chemicals and environmental health risks
US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry fact sheet on PCBs
US Environmental Protection Agency information on PCBs
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on immunization tetanus vaccine, and diphtheria vaccine
Wikipedia pages on PCBs and vaccines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030311
PMCID: PMC1551916  PMID: 16942395
22.  Developmental trajectories of Body Mass Index from infancy to 18 years of age: prenatal determinants and health consequences 
Background
Knowledge on the long-term development of adiposity throughout childhood/adolescence and its prenatal determinants and health sequelae is lacking. We sought to (1) identify trajectories of Body Mass Index (BMI) from 1 to 18 years of age, (2) examine associations of maternal gestational smoking and early pregnancy overweight with offspring BMI trajectories and (3) determine whether BMI trajectories predict health outcomes: asthma, lung function parameters (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)/forced vital capacity (FVC) ratio), and blood pressure, at 18 years.
Methods
The Isle of Wight birth cohort, a population-based sample of 1456 infants born between January 1989 and February 1990, was prospectively assessed at ages 1, 2, 4, 10 and 18 years. Group-based trajectory modelling was applied to test for the presence of latent BMI trajectories. Associations were assessed using log-binomial and linear regression models.
Results
Four trajectories of BMI were identified: ‘normal’, ‘early persistent obesity’, ‘delayed overweight’, and ‘early transient overweight’. Risk factors for being in the early persistent obesity trajectory included maternal smoking during pregnancy (RR 2.16, 95% CI 1.02 to 4.68) and early pregnancy overweight (3.16, 1.52 to 6.58). When comparing the early persistent obesity to the normal trajectory, a 2.15-fold (1.33 to 3.49) increased risk of asthma, 3.2% (0.4% to 6.0%) deficit in FEV1/FVC ratio, and elevated systolic 11.3 mm Hg (7.1 to 15.4) and diastolic 12.0 mm Hg (8.9 to 15.1) blood pressure were observed at age 18 years.
Conclusions
Maternal prenatal exposures show prolonged effects on offspring's propensity towards overweight-obesity. Distinct morbid BMI trajectories are evident during the first 18 years of life that are associated with higher risk of asthma, reduced FEV1/FVC ratio, and elevated blood pressure.
doi:10.1136/jech-2014-203808
PMCID: PMC4174013  PMID: 24895184
Obesity; Epidemiology; Paediatric; Maternal Health; Asthma
23.  Expressive and Receptive Language Functioning in Preschool Children With Prenatal Cocaine Exposure 
Journal of pediatric psychology  2004;29(7):543-554.
Objective
To estimate the relationship between severity of prenatal cocaine exposure and expressive and receptive language skills in full-term, African American children at age 3 years.
Methods
Language was assessed at age 3 using the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–Preschool (CELF-P). The sample included 424 children (226 cocaine exposed, 198 non–cocaine exposed) who received preschool language assessments at age 3, drawn from a cohort of 476 children enrolled prospectively at birth.
Results
Structural equation modeling was used to regress expressive and receptive language as intercorrelated response variables on level of prenatal cocaine exposure, measured by a latent construct including maternal self-report of cocaine use and maternal/infant urine toxicology assays and infant meconium. Results indicated a .168 SD decrease in expressive language functioning for every unit increase in exposure level (95% CI = −.320, −.015; p = .031) after consideration for fetal growth and gestational age as correlated response variables. Receptive language was more modestly related to prenatal cocaine exposure and was not statistically significant. Results for expressive language remained stable with inclusion of the McCarthy general cognitive index as a response variable (expressive language β = −.173, 95% CI = −.330, −.016; p = .031), and with adjustment for maternal age and prenatal exposures to alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana (expressive language β = −.175, 95% CI = −.347, −.003; p = .046). Additional child and caregiver environmental variables assessed at age 3 were also evaluated in varying statistical models with similar results.
Conclusion
The evidence from this study supports a gradient relationship between increased level of prenatal cocaine exposure and decreased expressive language functioning in preschool-aged cocaine-exposed children.
doi:10.1093/jpepsy/jsh056
PMCID: PMC2653083  PMID: 15347702
prenatal cocaine exposure; language functioning; preschool children; CELF-P
24.  Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e101.
Background
Childhood lead exposure is a purported risk factor for antisocial behavior, but prior studies either relied on indirect measures of exposure or did not follow participants into adulthood to examine the relationship between lead exposure and criminal activity in young adults. The objective of this study was to determine if prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations are associated with arrests for criminal offenses.
Methods and Findings
Pregnant women were recruited from four prenatal clinics in Cincinnati, Ohio if they resided in areas of the city with a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing. We studied 250 individuals, 19 to 24 y of age, out of 376 children who were recruited at birth between 1979 and 1984. Prenatal maternal blood lead concentrations were measured during the first or early second trimester of pregnancy. Childhood blood lead concentrations were measured on a quarterly and biannual basis through 6.5 y. Study participants were examined at an inner-city pediatric clinic and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Total arrests and arrests for offenses involving violence were collected from official Hamilton County, Ohio criminal justice records. Main outcomes were the covariate-adjusted rate ratios (RR) for total arrests and arrests for violent crimes associated with each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration. Adjusted total arrest rates were greater for each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration: RR = 1.40 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.07–1.85) for prenatal blood lead, 1.07 (95% CI 0.88–1.29) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.27 (95% CI 1.03–1.57) for 6-year blood lead. Adjusted arrest rates for violent crimes were also greater for each 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead: RR = 1.34 (95% CI 0.88–2.03) for prenatal blood lead, 1.30 (95% CI 1.03–1.64) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.48 (95% CI 1.15–1.89) for 6-year blood lead.
Conclusions
Prenatal and postnatal blood lead concentrations are associated with higher rates of total arrests and/or arrests for offenses involving violence. This is the first prospective study to demonstrate an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Kim Dietrich and colleagues find an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Violent crime is an increasing problem in many countries, but why are some people more aggressive than others? Being male has been identified as a risk factor for violent criminal behavior in several studies, as have exposure to tobacco smoke before birth, having antisocial parents, and belonging to a poor family. Another potential risk factor for antisocial behavior as an adult is exposure to lead during childhood, although few studies have looked directly at whether childhood lead exposure is linked with criminal behavior in adulthood. Lead is a toxic metal that damages the nervous system when ingested or inhaled. It is present throughout the environment because of its widespread use in the past in paint, solder for water pipes, and gasoline. In 1978, 13.5 million US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl, the current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blood lead level of concern (the average US blood lead level is 2 μg/dl). Lead paint and solder were banned in 1978 and 1986, respectively, by the US federal government; leaded gasoline was finally phased out in 1996. By 2002, only 310,000 US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl. However, children exposed to lower levels of lead than this—through ingesting flakes or dust residues of old lead paint, for example—can have poor intellectual development and behavioral problems including aggression.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although some studies have suggested that childhood lead exposure is associated with later criminal behavior, these studies have often relied on indirect measurements of childhood lead exposure such as bone lead levels in young adults or a history of lead poisoning. Other studies that have measured childhood lead exposure directly have not followed their participants into adulthood. In this new study, the researchers investigate the association between actual measurements of prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations and criminal arrests in early adulthood to get a clearer idea about whether early lead exposure is associated with subsequent violent behavior.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 1979 and 1984, the researchers recruited pregnant women living in poor areas of Cincinnati, which had a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing, into the Cincinnati Lead Study. They measured the women's blood lead concentrations during pregnancy as an indication of their offspring's prenatal lead exposure and the children's blood lead levels regularly until they were six and half years old. They then obtained information from the local criminal justice records on how many times each of the 250 offspring had been arrested between becoming 18 years old and the end of October 2005. The researchers found that increased blood lead levels before birth and during early childhood were associated with higher rates of arrest for any reason and for violent crimes. For example, for every 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead levels at six years of age, the risk of being arrested for a violent crime as a young adult increased by almost 50% (the “relative risk” was 1.48).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide strong evidence that early lead exposure is a risk factor for criminal behavior, including violent crime, in adulthood. One possibility, which the authors were unable to assess in this study, is that lead exposure impairs intelligence, which in turn makes it more likely that a criminal offender will be caught (i.e., arrested). The authors discuss a number of limitations in their study—for example, they probably did not capture all criminal behavior (since most criminal behavior does not lead to arrest). Although both environmental lead levels and crime rates have dropped over the last 30 years in the US, the overall reduction was not uniform—inner-city children remain particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. The findings therefore suggest that a further reduction in childhood lead exposure might be an important and achievable way to reduce violent crime.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101.
A PLoS Medicine Perspective article by David Bellinger further discusses this study and a related paper on childhood lead exposure and brain volume reduction in adulthood
Study researcher Kim Dietrich can be heard talking about “The Lethal Legacy of Lead”, a brief MP3 about lead exposure and violent crime
Toxtown, an interactive site from the US National Library of Medicine, provides information on environmental health concerns including exposure to lead (in English and Spanish)
The US Environmental Protection Agency provides information on lead in paint, dust, and soil and on protecting children from lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to information on lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The UK Health Protection Agency also provides information about lead and its health hazards
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101
PMCID: PMC2689664  PMID: 18507497
25.  Genetic Markers of Adult Obesity Risk Are Associated with Greater Early Infancy Weight Gain and Growth 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000284.
Ken Ong and colleagues genotyped children from the ALSPAC birth cohort and showed an association between greater early infancy gains in weight and length and genetic markers for adult obesity risk.
Background
Genome-wide studies have identified several common genetic variants that are robustly associated with adult obesity risk. Exploration of these genotype associations in children may provide insights into the timing of weight changes leading to adult obesity.
Methods and Findings
Children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort were genotyped for ten genetic variants previously associated with adult BMI. Eight variants that showed individual associations with childhood BMI (in/near: FTO, MC4R, TMEM18, GNPDA2, KCTD15, NEGR1, BDNF, and ETV5) were used to derive an “obesity-risk-allele score” comprising the total number of risk alleles (range: 2–15 alleles) in each child with complete genotype data (n = 7,146). Repeated measurements of weight, length/height, and body mass index from birth to age 11 years were expressed as standard deviation scores (SDS). Early infancy was defined as birth to age 6 weeks, and early infancy failure to thrive was defined as weight gain between below the 5th centile, adjusted for birth weight. The obesity-risk-allele score showed little association with birth weight (regression coefficient: 0.01 SDS per allele; 95% CI 0.00–0.02), but had an apparently much larger positive effect on early infancy weight gain (0.119 SDS/allele/year; 0.023–0.216) than on subsequent childhood weight gain (0.004 SDS/allele/year; 0.004–0.005). The obesity-risk-allele score was also positively associated with early infancy length gain (0.158 SDS/allele/year; 0.032–0.284) and with reduced risk of early infancy failure to thrive (odds ratio  = 0.92 per allele; 0.86–0.98; p = 0.009).
Conclusions
The use of robust genetic markers identified greater early infancy gains in weight and length as being on the pathway to adult obesity risk in a contemporary birth cohort.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The proportion of overweight and obese children is increasing across the globe. In the US, the Surgeon General estimates that, compared with 1980, twice as many children and three times the number of adolescents are now overweight. Worldwide, 22 million children under five years old are considered by the World Health Organization to be overweight.
Being overweight or obese in childhood is associated with poor physical and mental health. In addition, childhood obesity is considered a major risk factor for adult obesity, which is itself a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other chronic conditions.
The most commonly used measure of whether an adult is a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI), defined as weight in kilograms/(height in metres)2. However, adult categories of obese (>30) and overweight (>25) BMI are not directly applicable to children, whose BMI naturally varies as they grow. BMI can be used to screen children for being overweight and or obese but a diagnosis requires further information.
Why Was This Study Done?
As the numbers of obese and overweight children increase, a corresponding rise in future numbers of overweight and obese adults is also expected. This in turn is expected to lead to an increasing incidence of poor health. As a result, there is great interest among health professionals in possible pathways between childhood and adult obesity. It has been proposed that certain periods in childhood may be critical for the development of obesity.
In the last few years, ten genetic variants have been found to be more common in overweight or obese adults. Eight of these have also been linked to childhood BMI and/or obesity. The authors wanted to identify the timing of childhood weight changes that may be associated with adult obesity. Knowledge of obesity risk genetic variants gave them an opportunity to do so now, without following a set of children to adulthood.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors analysed data gathered from a subset of 7,146 singleton white European children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study, which is investigating associations between genetics, lifestyle, and health outcomes for a group of children in Bristol whose due date of birth fell between April 1991 and December 1992. They used knowledge of the children's genetic makeup to find associations between an obesity risk allele score—a measure of how many of the obesity risk genetic variants a child possessed—and the children's weight, height, BMI, levels of body fat (at nine years old), and rate of weight gain, up to age 11 years.
They found that, at birth, children with a higher obesity risk allele score were not any heavier, but in the immediate postnatal period they were less likely to be in the bottom 5% of the population for weight gain (adjusted for birthweight), often termed “failure to thrive.” At six weeks of age, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be longer and heavier, even allowing for weight at birth.
After six weeks of age, the obesity risk allele score was not associated with any further increase in length/height, but it was associated with a more rapid weight gain between birth and age 11 years. BMI is derived from height and weight measurements, and the association between the obesity risk allele score and BMI was weak between birth and age three-and-a-half years, but after that age the association with BMI increased rapidly. By age nine, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be heavier and taller, with more fat on their bodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The combined obesity allele risk score is associated with higher rates of weight gain and adult obesity, and so the authors conclude that weight gain and growth even in the first few weeks after birth may be the beginning of a pathway of greater adult obesity risk.
A study that tracks a population over time can find associations but it cannot show cause and effect. In addition, only a relatively small proportion (1.7%) of the variation in BMI at nine years of age is explained by the obesity risk allele score.
The authors' method of finding associations between childhood events and adult outcomes via genetic markers of risk of disease as an adult has a significant advantage: the authors did not have to follow the children themselves to adulthood, so their findings are more likely to be relevant to current populations. Despite this, this research does not yield advice for parents how to reduce their children's obesity risk. It does suggest that “failure to thrive” in the first six weeks of life is not simply due to a lack of provision of food by the baby's caregiver but that genetic factors also contribute to early weight gain and growth.
The study looked at the combined obesity risk allele score and the authors did not attempt to identify which individual alleles have greater or weaker associations with weight gain and overweight or obesity. This would require further research based on far larger numbers of babies and children. The findings may also not be relevant to children in other types of setting because of the effects of different nutrition and lifestyles.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000284.
Further information is available on the ALSPAC study
The UK National Health Service and other partners provide guidance on establishing a healthy lifestyle for children and families in their Change4Life programme
The International Obesity Taskforce is a global network of expertise and the advocacy arm of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. It works with the World Health Organization, other NGOs, and stakeholders and provides information on overweight and obesity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US provide guidance and tips on maintaining a healthy weight, including BMI calculators in both metric and Imperial measurements for both adults and children. They also provide BMI growth charts for boys and girls showing how healthy ranges vary for each sex at with age
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health provides growth charts for weight and length/height from birth to age 4 years that are based on WHO 2006 growth standards and have been adapted for use in the UK
The CDC Web site provides information on overweight and obesity in adults and children, including definitions, causes, and data
The CDC also provide information on the role of genes in causing obesity.
The World Health Organization publishes a fact sheet on obesity, overweight and weight management, including links to childhood overweight and obesity
Wikipedia includes an article on childhood obesity (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000284
PMCID: PMC2876048  PMID: 20520848

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