The impact of low-to-moderate levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on child cognitive outcomes has been of recent concern. This study has tested the hypothesis that low-to-moderate maternal alcohol use in pregnancy is associated with lower school test scores at age 11 in the offspring via intrauterine mechanisms.
We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a birth cohort study based in the South West of England. Analyses were conducted on 7062 participants who had complete data on: maternal and paternal patterns of alcohol use in the first trimester and at 18 weeks' gestation, child's academic outcomes measured at age 11, gender, maternal age, parity, marital status, ethnicity, household crowding, home ownership status and parental education. We contrasted the association of mother's alcohol consumption during pregnancy with child's National Curriculum Key Stage 2 (KS2) test scores with the association for father's alcohol consumption (during the time the mother was pregnant) with child's National Curriculum Key Stage 2 (KS2) test scores. We used multivariate linear regression to estimate mean differences and 95% confidence intervals [CI] in KS2 scores across the exposure categories and computed f statistics to compare maternal and paternal associations.
Findings and conclusions
Drinking up to 1 unit of alcohol a day during pregnancy was not associated with lower test scores. However, frequent prenatal consumption of 4 units (equivalent to 32 grams of alcohol) on each single drinking occasion was associated with reduced educational attainment [Mean change in offspring KS2 score was −0.68 (−1.03, −0.33) for maternal alcohol categories compared to 0.27 (0.07, 0.46) for paternal alcohol categories]. Frequent consumption of 4 units of alcohol during pregnancy may adversely affect childhood academic outcomes via intrauterine mechanisms.
Background: Very high levels of prenatal maternal mercury have adverse effects on the developing fetal brain. It has been suggested that all possible sources of mercury should be avoided. However, although seafood is a known source of mercury, little is known about other dietary components that contribute to the overall levels of blood mercury.
Objective: Our goal was to quantify the contribution of components of maternal diet to prenatal blood mercury level.
Methods: Whole blood samples and information on diet and sociodemographic factors were collected from pregnant women (n = 4,484) enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The blood samples were assayed for total mercury using inductively coupled plasma dynamic reaction cell mass spectrometry. Linear regression was used to estimate the relative contributions of 103 dietary variables and 6 sociodemographic characteristics to whole blood total mercury levels (TBM; untransformed and log-transformed) based on R2 values.
Results: We estimated that maternal diet accounted for 19.8% of the total variation in ln-TBM, with 44% of diet-associated variability (8.75% of the total variation) associated with seafood consumption (white fish, oily fish, and shellfish). Other dietary components positively associated with TBM included wine and herbal teas, and components with significant negative associations included white bread, meat pies or pasties, and french fries.
Conclusions: Although seafood is a source of dietary mercury, seafood appeared to explain a relatively small proportion of the variation in TBM in our UK study population. Our findings require confirmation, but suggest that limiting seafood intake during pregnancy may have a limited impact on prenatal blood mercury levels.
Citation: Golding J, Steer CD, Hibbeln JR, Emmett PM, Lowery T, Jones R. 2013. Dietary predictors of maternal prenatal blood mercury levels in the ALSPAC birth cohort study. Environ Health Perspect 121:1214–1218; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1206115
Lead is a widespread environmental toxin. The behaviour and academic performance of children can be adversely affected even at low blood lead levels (BLL) of 5–10 µg/dl. An important contribution to the infant's lead load is provided by maternal transfer during pregnancy.
Our aim was to determine BLL in a large cohort of pregnant women in the UK and to identify the factors that contribute to BLL in pregnant women.
Pregnant women resident in the Avon area of the UK were enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in 1991–1992. Whole blood samples were collected at median gestational age of 11 weeks and analysed by inductively coupled plasma dynamic reaction cell mass spectrometry (n = 4285). Self-completion postal questionnaires were used to collect data during pregnancy on lifestyle, diet and other environmental exposures. Statistical analysis was carried out with SPSS v19.
The mean±SD BLL was 3.67±1.47 (median 3.41, range 0.41–19.14) µg/dl. Higher educational qualification was found to be one of the strongest independent predictor of BLL in an adjusted backwards stepwise logistic regression to predict maternal BLL <5 or ≥5 µg/dl (odds ratio 1.26, 95% confidence interval 1.12–1.42; p<0.001). Other predictive factors included cigarette smoking, alcohol and coffee drinking, and heating the home with a coal fire, with some evidence for iron and calcium intake having protective effects.
The mean BLL in this group of pregnant women is higher than has been found in similar populations in developed countries. The finding that high education attainment was independently associated with higher BLL was unexpected and currently unexplained. Reduction in maternal lead levels can best be undertaken by reducing intake of the social drugs cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine, although further investigation of the effect of calcium on lead levels is needed.
Little is known about relationships between dietary patterns, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) intake and excessive anxiety during pregnancy.
To examine whether dietary patterns and n-3 PUFA intake from seafood are associated with high levels of anxiety during pregnancy.
Pregnant women enrolled from 1991–1992 in ALSPAC (n 9,530). Dietary patterns were established from a food frequency questionnaire using principal component analysis. Total intake of n-3 PUFA (grams/week) from seafood was also examined. Symptoms of anxiety were measured at 32 weeks of gestation with the Crown-Crisp Experiential Index; scores ≥9 corresponding to the 85th percentile was defined as high anxiety symptoms. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to estimate the OR and 95% CI, adjusted by socioeconomic and lifestyle variables.
Multivariate results showed that women in the highest tertile of the health-conscious (OR 0.77; 0.65–0.93) and the traditional (OR 0.84; 0.73–0.97) pattern scores were less likely to report high levels of anxiety symptoms. Women in the highest tertile of the vegetarian pattern score (OR 1.25; 1.08–1.44) were more likely to have high levels of anxiety, as well as those with no n-3 PUFA intake from seafood (OR 1.53; 1.25–1.87) when compared with those with intake of >1.5 grams/week.
The present study provides evidence of a relationship between dietary patterns, fish intake or n-3 PUFA intake from seafood and symptoms of anxiety in pregnancy, and suggests that dietary interventions could be used to reduce high anxiety symptoms during pregnancy.
Ear wax type and axillary odor are genetically determined by rs17822931, a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) located in the ABCC11 gene. The literature has been concerned with the Mendelian trait of earwax, although axillary odor is also Mendelian. Ethnic diversity in rs17822931 exists, with higher frequency of allele A in East Asians. Influence on deodorant usage has not been investigated. In this work we present a detailed analysis of the rs17822931 effect on deodorant usage in a large (N~17,000 individuals) population cohort (The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, ALSPAC). We found strong evidence (P=3.7×10−20) indicating differential deodorant usage according to rs17822931 genotype. AA homozygotes were almost 5-fold over-represented in categories of never using deodorant or using it infrequently. However, 77.8% of white European genotypically non-odorous individuals still used deodorant, and 4.7% genotypically odorous individuals did not. We provide evidence previously unreported of a behavioural effect associated with rs17822931. This effect has a biological basis which can result in a change in the family’s environment if an aerosol deodorant is used. It also indicates potential cost saving to the non-odorous and scope for personalised genetics usage in personal hygiene choices, with consequent reduction of inappropriate chemical exposures for some.
ABCC11 gene; deodorant usage; axillary odor; personalised genetics
Minor alleles of polymorphisms in the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene cluster have been associated with reduced desaturation of the precursor polyunsaturated fatty acids (FAs) in small studies. The effects of these polymorphisms during progressive developmental stages have not previously been reported. Data from blood samples for 4342 pregnant women, 3343 umbilical cords reflecting the newborn's blood supply and 5240 children aged 7 years were analysed to investigate the associations of polyunsaturated FAs with rs1535 and rs174575—two polymorphisms in the FADS2 gene. Strong positive associations were observed between the minor G allele for these two markers, especially rs1535, and the substrates linoleic (18:2n-6) and α-linolenic (18:3n-3) acid. Negative associations were observed for the more highly unsaturated FAs such as arachidonic acid (20:4n-6), timnodonic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) and cervonic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3). Bivariable genetic associations using the mother and child genotypes suggested that the newborn metabolism had a greater capacity to synthesize the more highly unsaturated omega-6 FAs than the more highly unsaturated omega-3 FAs. Nevertheless, despite the immaturity of the neonate, there was evidence that synthesis of DHA was occurring. However, by 7 years, no associations were observed with the maternal genotype. This suggested that the children's FA levels were related only to their own metabolism with no apparent lasting influences of the in utero environment.
Observational studies have generated conflicting evidence on the effects of moderate maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy on offspring cognition mainly reflecting problems of confounding. Among mothers who drink during pregnancy fetal alcohol exposure is influenced not only by mother’s intake but also by genetic variants carried by both the mother and the fetus. Associations between children’s cognitive function and both maternal and child genotype at these loci can shed light on the effects of maternal alcohol consumption on offspring cognitive development.
We used a large population based study of women recruited during pregnancy to determine whether genetic variants in alcohol metabolising genes in this cohort of women and their children were related to the child’s cognitive score (measured by the Weschler Intelligence Scale) at age 8.
We found that four genetic variants in alcohol metabolising genes in 4167 children were strongly related to lower IQ at age 8, as was a risk allele score based on these 4 variants. This effect was only seen amongst the offspring of mothers who were moderate drinkers (1–6 units alcohol per week during pregnancy (per allele effect estimates were −1.80 (95% CI = −2.63 to −0.97) p = 0.00002, with no effect among children whose mothers abstained during pregnancy (0.16 (95%CI = −1.05 to 1.36) p = 0.80), p-value for interaction = 0.009). A further genetic variant associated with alcohol metabolism in mothers was associated with their child’s IQ, but again only among mothers who drank during pregnancy.
To assess whether the prevalence of growing pains varies with indicators of fatty acid exposure. Growing pains (limb pains of no obvious explanation) have been shown to be strongly linked to a family history of arthritis, and are thought to predict an increased risk of the development of arthritis in adulthood. Much has been made of the possibility of fatty acids, particularly the ω-3 fatty acids, playing a preventive role in the development of arthritis, but little research has been undertaken to determine whether such fatty acids might reduce the risk of growing pains. We aimed to assess whether the prevalence of growing pains varies with indicators of fatty acid exposures.
Case–control study nested within a prospective longitudinal cohort comparing prenatal and postnatal diet, blood measures and variants in fatty acid desaturase (FADS) genes that influence the metabolism of fatty acids. Statistical analysis took account of factors such as gender, smoke exposure, maternal age and education, social class and parity.
Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents & Children.
All children born between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992 (approximately14 000) within the Avon area (only that part of Avon under the South-West Regional Health Authority). This project compared 1676 children who reported ‘growing pains’ at age 8 with 6155 with no such pain.
Reported limb pains of no apparent origin.
There was no indication that the affected children had diets that differed with regard to ω-3, plasma levels of fatty acids, or the FADS genetic variants. We also assessed fetal and infant exposure but neither maternal prenatal blood levels nor maternal dietary intake, or duration of breast feeding showed any significant relationships even after adjustment for confounders.
Thus, there is no evidence that ω-3 fatty acid status protects against the development of growing pains in childhood.
Epidemiology; Genetics; Paediatric clinical genetics & dysmorphology; Nutrition & Dietetics; Orthopaedic & Trauma Surgery; Musculoskeletal disorders; Pain Management
Background and Aim
Exposure to stressful life events during pregnancy has been suggested as a potential risk factor for offspring Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but the literature is limited and inconsistent. We tested the hypothesis that maternal exposure to stressful life events would be associated with increased risks of offspring ASD, and that these risks would be highest for exposures during the prenatal period.
Methods and Results
We used prospectively collected data from two large population based studies in Sweden and England. In the Swedish study of 4429 ASD cases and 43277 controls, our exposure comprised the occurrence of any severe life event before and during pregnancy and the child's early life. In the English study (maximum n = 11554, ASD n = 72), we studied the risk of offspring ASD in relation to a combined maternal exposure to multiple (up to 42) common and rare life events, as well as their perceived impact upon the mother during pregnancy and early life. In crude and adjusted regression analyses in both studies, we found no evidence of an association between prenatal life events, or their number and perceived impact and the risk of offspring ASD. Sub-group analysis of ASD with and without intellectual disability in the Swedish study yielded similar results.
We found no evidence to support the hypotheses that exposure to stressful life events during the prenatal period is associated with an increased risk of offspring ASD.
Prenatal loss, the death of a fetus/child through miscarriage or stillbirth, is associated with significant depression and anxiety, particularly in a subsequent pregnancy.
This study examined the degree to which symptoms of depression and anxiety associated with a previous loss persisted following a subsequent successful pregnancy.
Data were derived from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children cohort, a longitudinal cohort study in the west of England that has followed mothers from pregnancy into the postnatal period. A total of 13133 mothers reported on the number and conditions of previous perinatal losses and provided self-report measures of depression and anxiety at 18 and 32 weeks’ gestation and at 8 weeks and 8, 21 and 33 months postnatally. Controls for pregnancy outcome and obstetric and psychosocial factors were included.
Generalised estimating equations indicated that the number of previous miscarriages/stillbirths significantly predicted symptoms of depression (β = 0.18, s.e. = 0.07, P < 0.01) and anxiety (β = 0.14, s.e. = 0.05, P < 0.01) in a subsequent pregnancy, independent of key psychosocial and obstetric factors. This association remained constant across the pre- and postnatal period, indicating that the impact of a previous prenatal loss did not diminish significantly following the birth of a healthy child.
Depression and anxiety associated with a previous prenatal loss shows a persisting pattern that continues after the birth of a subsequent (healthy) child. Interventions targeting women with previous prenatal loss may improve the health outcomes of women and their children.
Prenatal loss, the death of a fetus/child through miscarriage or
stillbirth, is associated with significant depression and anxiety,
particularly in a subsequent pregnancy.
This study examined the degree to which symptoms of depression and anxiety
associated with a previous loss persisted following a subsequent successful
Data were derived from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children
cohort, a longitudinal cohort study in the west of England that has followed
mothers from pregnancy into the postnatal period. A total of 13 133 mothers
reported on the number and conditions of previous perinatal losses and
provided self-report measures of depression and anxiety at 18 and 32
weeks’ gestation and at 8 weeks and 8, 21 and 33 months postnatally.
Controls for pregnancy outcome and obstetric and psychosocial factors were
Generalised estimating equations indicated that the number of previous
miscarriages/stillbirths significantly predicted symptoms of depression
(β = 0.18, s.e. = 0.07, P<0.01) and anxiety (β = 0.14, s.e. =
0.05, P<0.01) in a subsequent pregnancy, independent of key psychosocial
and obstetric factors. This association remained constant across the pre- and
postnatal period, indicating that the impact of a previous prenatal loss did
not diminish significantly following the birth of a healthy child.
Depression and anxiety associated with a previous prenatal loss shows a
persisting pattern that continues after the birth of a subsequent (healthy)
child. Interventions targeting women with previous prenatal loss may improve
the health outcomes of women and their children.
The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is a transgenerational
prospective observational study investigating influences on health and development across
the life course. It considers multiple genetic, epigenetic, biological, psychological,
social and other environmental exposures in relation to a similarly diverse range of
health, social and developmental outcomes. Recruitment sought to enrol pregnant women in
the Bristol area of the UK during 1990–92; this was extended to include additional
children eligible using the original enrolment definition up to the age of 18 years. The
children from 14 541 pregnancies were recruited in 1990–92, increasing to
15 247 pregnancies by the age of 18 years. This cohort profile describes the index
children of these pregnancies. Follow-up includes 59 questionnaires (4 weeks–18
years of age) and 9 clinical assessment visits (7–17 years of age). The resource
comprises a wide range of phenotypic and environmental measures in addition to biological
samples, genetic (DNA on 11 343 children, genome-wide data on 8365 children,
complete genome sequencing on 2000 children) and epigenetic (methylation sampling on 1000
children) information and linkage to health and administrative records. Data access is
described in this article and is currently set up as a supported access resource. To date,
over 700 peer-reviewed articles have been published using ALSPAC data.
Summary The Avon Longitudinal Study of Children and Parents (ALSPAC) was
established to understand how genetic and environmental characteristics influence health
and development in parents and children. All pregnant women resident in a defined area in
the South West of England, with an expected date of delivery between 1st April 1991 and
31st December 1992, were eligible and 13 761 women (contributing 13 867
pregnancies) were recruited. These women have been followed over the last 19–22
years and have completed up to 20 questionnaires, have had detailed data abstracted from
their medical records and have information on any cancer diagnoses and deaths through
record linkage. A follow-up assessment was completed 17–18 years postnatal at which
anthropometry, blood pressure, fat, lean and bone mass and carotid intima media thickness
were assessed, and a fasting blood sample taken. The second follow-up clinic, which
additionally measures cognitive function, physical capability, physical activity (with
accelerometer) and wrist bone architecture, is underway and two further assessments with
similar measurements will take place over the next 5 years. There is a detailed biobank
that includes DNA, with genome-wide data available on >10 000, stored serum and
plasma taken repeatedly since pregnancy and other samples; a wide range of data on
completed biospecimen assays are available. Details of how to access these data are
provided in this cohort profile.
There is overlap between an autistic and hyperactive-inattentive symptomatology when studied cross-sectionally. This study is the first to examine the longitudinal pattern of association between social-communication deficits and hyperactive-inattentive symptoms in the general population, from childhood through adolescence. We explored the interrelationship between trajectories of co-occurring symptoms, and sought evidence for shared prenatal/perinatal risk factors.
Study participants were 5,383 singletons of white ethnicity from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Multiple measurements of hyperactive-inattentive traits (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) and autistic social-communication impairment (Social Communication Disorder Checklist) were obtained between 4 and 17 years. Both traits and their trajectories were modeled in parallel using latent class growth analysis (LCGA). Trajectory membership was subsequently investigated with respect to prenatal/perinatal risk factors.
LCGA analysis revealed two distinct social-communication trajectories (persistently impaired versus low-risk) and four hyperactive-inattentive trait trajectories (persistently impaired, intermediate, childhood-limited and low-risk). Autistic symptoms were more stable than those of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) behaviors, which showed greater variability. Trajectories for both traits were strongly but not reciprocally interlinked, such that the majority of children with a persistent hyperactive-inattentive symptomatology also showed persistent social-communication deficits but not vice versa. Shared predictors, especially for trajectories of persistent impairment, were maternal smoking during the first trimester, which included familial effects, and a teenage pregnancy.
Our longitudinal study reveals that a complex relationship exists between social-communication and hyperactive-inattentive traits. Patterns of association change over time, with corresponding implications for removing exclusivity criteria for ASD and ADHD, as proposed for DSM-5.
social-communication trait; hyperactive-inattentive trait; maternal smoking; teenage pregnancy; ALSPAC
Apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype (ε2/ε3/ε4: rs429358 ε4 allele; rs7412 ε2 allele) is strongly associated with both lipid levels and Alzheimer's disease. Although there is also evidence of milder cognitive impairment in later life in carriers of the APOE ε4 allele, there have been few studies investigating the impact of APOE genotype on cognitive function in children.
We determined APOE genotype in 5995 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and investigated associations between APOE genotype and plasma lipids (at age 9), IQ (at age 8), memory (at ages 8 and 10), and performance in school attainment tests (at ages 7, 11, and 14).
Observed genotype group counts were consistent with Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium (χ2p value = .84). There were strong relationships between APOE genotype and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, which follow the same patterns as in adults. There was no strong evidence to suggest that APOE genotype was associated with IQ (all p values ≥ .46), memory function (p ≥ .35), or school attainment test results (p ≥ .28).
Although APOE genotype does have strong associations with lipid levels in childhood, there does not seem to be meaningful effects on cognitive performance, suggesting that any detrimental effects of the ε4 allele on cognitive function are not important until later life.
APOE; children; cognitive function; IQ; lipids; memory
To assess the feasibility and reproducibility of non-invasive vascular assessment in a childhood population setting and identify the determinants of vascular phenotype in early life.
Methods and results
We studied 7557 children (age 9.8–12.3 years) participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Six research technicians underwent a 5-month training protocol to enable study of brachial artery endothelial function by flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) and arterial stiffness by carotid to radial pulse wave velocity (PWV) and brachial distensibility [distensibility coefficient (DC)]. Reproducibility studies were performed at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the study. A blinded repeat evaluation of a random selection of 3% of the cohort was also undertaken throughout the study. The effect of anthropometric and environmental factors on each measure was examined. Successful measures were obtained in 88, 95, and 87% of the studied children for FMD, PWV, and DC, respectively. The coefficients of variation between technicians for FMD, PWV, and DC were 10.5, 4.6, and 6.6% at the beginning of the study and reached 7.7, 4.1, and 10% at the end. Baseline vessel diameter and gender were important determinants of all the vascular measures, with a small effect of room and skin temperatures on FMD and PWV. Boys consistently had lower FMD and DC and higher PWV measures (P < 0.01 for all).
Reproducible, high-quality assessments of vascular structure and function in children can be made on a large scale in field studies by suitably trained non-specialist operators. This study provides an invaluable resource for assessing the impact of early influences, genetic, and environmental factors on arterial phenotype.
ALSPAC; Vascular; Children; Endothelial function; Reproducibility
Recent genome-wide analysis identified a genetic variant on 5p14.1 (rs4307059), which is associated with risk for autism spectrum disorder. This study investigated whether rs4307059 also operates as a quantitative trait locus underlying a broader autism phenotype in the general population, focusing specifically on the social communication aspect of the spectrum.
Study participants were 7,313 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Single-trait and joint-trait genotype associations were investigated for 29 measures related to language and communication, verbal intelligence, social interaction, and behavioral adjustment, assessed between ages 3 and 12 years. Analyses were performed in one-sided or directed mode and adjusted for multiple testing, trait interrelatedness, and random genotype dropout.
Single phenotype analyses showed that an increased load of rs4307059 risk allele is associated with stereotyped conversation and lower pragmatic communication skills, as measured by the Children's Communication Checklist (at a mean age of 9.7 years). In addition a trend toward a higher frequency of identification of special educational needs (at a mean age of 11.8 years) was observed. Variation at rs4307059 was also associated with the phenotypic profile of studied traits. This joint signal was fully explained neither by single-trait associations nor by overall behavioral adjustment problems but suggested a combined effect, which manifested through multiple subthreshold social, communicative, and cognitive impairments.
Our results suggest that common variation at 5p14.1 is associated with social communication spectrum phenotypes in the general population and support the role of rs4307059 as a quantitative trait locus for autism spectrum disorder.
The timing of puberty is highly variable1. We carried out a genome-wide association study for age at menarche in 4,714 women and report an association in LIN28B on chromosome 6 (rs314276, minor allele frequency (MAF) = 0.33, P = 1.5 × 10−8). In independent replication studies in 16,373 women, each major allele was associated with 0.12 years earlier menarche (95% CI = 0.08–0.16; P = 2.8 × 10−10; combined P = 3.6 × 10−16). This allele was also associated with earlier breast development in girls (P = 0.001; N = 4,271); earlier voice breaking (P = 0.006, N = 1,026) and more advanced pubic hair development in boys (P = 0.01; N = 4,588); a faster tempo of height growth in girls (P = 0.00008; N = 4,271) and boys (P = 0.03; N = 4,588); and shorter adult height in women (P = 3.6 × 10−7; N = 17,274) and men (P = 0.006; N = 9,840) in keeping with earlier growth cessation. These studies identify variation in LIN28B, a potent and specific regulator of microRNA processing2, as the first genetic determinant regulating the timing of human pubertal growth and development.
It is increasingly recognised that traits associated with autism reflect a spectrum with no clear boundary between typical and atypical behaviour. Dimensional traits are needed to investigate the broader autism phenotype.
Methods and Principal Findings
Ninety-three individual measures reflecting components of social, communication and repetitive behaviours characterising autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) were identified between the ages of 6 months and 9 years from the ALSPAC database. Using missing value imputation, data for 13,138 children were analysed. Factor analysis suggested the existence of 7 factors explaining 85% of the variance. The factors were labelled: verbal ability, language acquisition, social understanding, semantic-pragmatic skills, repetitive-stereotyped behaviour, articulation and social inhibition. Four factors (1, 3, 5 and 7) were specific to ASD being more strongly associated with this phenotype than other co-morbid conditions while other factors were more associated with learning difficulties and specific language impairment. Nevertheless, all 7 factors contributed independently to the explanation of ASD (p<0.001). Exploration of putative genetic causal factors such as variants in the CNTNAP2 gene showed a varying pattern of associations with these traits. An alternative predictive model of ASD was derived using four individual measures: the coherence subscale of the Children's Communication Checklist (9y), the Social and Communication Disorders Checklist (91 m), repetitive behaviour (69 m) and the sociability subscale of the Emotionality Activity and Sociability measure (38 m). Although univarably these traits performed better than some factors, their combined explanations of ASD were similar (R2 = 0.48).
Conclusions and Significance
These results support the fractional nature of ASD with different aetiological origins for these components despite pleiotropic genetic effects being observed. These traits are likely to be useful in the exploration of ASD.
Breastfeeding is important for child cognitive development. A study by Caspi et al has suggested that rs174575 within the FADS2 gene moderates this effect so that children homozygous in the minor allele (GG genotype) have similar IQs irrespective of feeding method.
Methods and Principal Findings
In our study of 5934 children aged 8 years, no genetic main effect with IQ was found for rs174575. However, an interaction with this polymorphism was observed such that breastfed GG children performed better than their formula fed counterparts by an additional 5.8 points [1.4, 10.1] (interaction p = 0.0091). Interaction results were attenuated by about 10% after adjustment for 7 factors. This study also investigated rs1535, another FADS2 polymorphism in linkage disequilibrium with rs174575, together with performance and verbal IQ, finding similar results although effect sizes were generally reduced.
Conclusions and Significance
This study did not replicate the findings of Caspi et al. In contrast to their study, GG children exhibited the greatest difference between feeding methods such that breastfed children performed similarly irrespective of child genotype whereas formula fed GG children performed worse than other children on formula milk. Further studies are required to replicate these findings.
Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were used to describe initiation of secondary sexual characteristic development of girls. Tanner stages of breast and pubic hair and menarche status were self-reported via mailed questionnaires, administered from ages 8–14. Initiation pathway was categorized as breast [thelarche] or pubic hair [pubarche] development alone, or synchronous. Average ages at beginning breast and pubic hair development were estimated using survival analysis. Factors associated with initiation pathway were assessed using logistic regression. Among the 3938 participants, the median ages at beginning breast and pubic hair development were 10.19 (95% CI: 10.14–10.24) and 10.95 (95% CI: 10.90–11.00) years. Synchronous initiation was the most commonly reported pathway (46.3%), followed by thelarche (42.1%). Girls in the pubarche pathway were less likely to be obese or overweight at age 8 or have an overweight or obese mother. Girls in the thelarche pathway were less likely to be of nonwhite race or be the third born or later child.
The potential relationship between daily physical activity and pregnancy outcome remains unclear because of the wide variation in study designs and physical activity assessment measures. We sought to prospectively quantify the potential effects of the various domains of physical activity on selected birth outcomes in a large unselected population. The sample consisted of 11,759 singleton pregnancies from the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children, United Kingdom. Information on daily physical activity was collected by postal questionnaire for self-report measures. Main outcome measures were birth weight, gestational age at delivery, preterm birth and survival. After controlling for confounders, a sedentary lifestyle and paid work during the second trimester of pregnancy were found to be associated with a lower birth weight, while ‘bending and stooping’ and ‘working night shifts’ were associated with a higher birth weight. There was no association between physical exertion and duration of gestation or survival. Repetitive boring tasks during the first trimester was weakly associated with an increased risk of preterm birth (<37 weeks) (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.25, 95% CI 1.04–1.50). ‘Bending and stooping’ during the third trimester was associated with a reduced risk of preterm birth (adjusted OR = 0.73, 95% CI 0.63–0.84). Demanding physical activities do not have a harmful effect on the selected birth outcomes while a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a lower birth weight. In the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, pregnant women may safely continue their normal daily physical activities should they wish to do so.
Birth weight; Gestational duration; Motor activity; Premature birth; Perinatal mortality
A number of studies have assessed ages of parents of children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), and reported both maternal and paternal age effects. Here we assess relationships with grandparental ages.
Methods and Findings
We compared the parental and grandparental ages of children in the population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), according to their scores in regard to 4 autistic trait measures and whether they had been given a diagnosis of ASD. Mean maternal and paternal ages of ASD cases were raised, but this appears to be secondary to a maternal grandmother age effect (P = 0.006): OR = 1.66[95%CI 1.16, 2.37] for each 10-year increase in the grandmother's age at the birth of the mother. Trait measures also revealed an association between the maternal grandmother's age and the major autistic trait–the Coherence Scale (regression coefficient b = 0.142, [95%CI = 0.057, 0.228]P = 0.001). After allowing for confounders the effect size increased to b = 0.217[95%CI 0.125, 0.308](P<0.001) for each 10 year increase in age.
Although the relationship between maternal grandmother's age and ASD and a major autistic trait was unexpected, there is some biological plausibility, for the maternal side at least, given that the timing of female meiosis I permits direct effects on the grandchild's genome during the grandmother's pregnancy. An alternative explanation is the meiotic mismatch methylation (3 M) hypothesis, presented here for the first time. Nevertheless the findings should be treated as hypothesis generating pending corroborative results from other studies.
Making sense of rapidly evolving evidence on genetic associations is crucial to making genuine advances in human genomics and the eventual integration of this information in the practice of medicine and public health. Assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this evidence, and hence the ability to synthesize it, has been limited by inadequate reporting of results. The STrengthening the REporting of Genetic Association studies (STREGA) initiative builds on the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement and provides additions to 12 of the 22 items on the STROBE checklist. The additions concern population stratification, genotyping errors, modeling haplotype variation, Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium, replication, selection of participants, rationale for choice of genes and variants, treatment effects in studying quantitative traits, statistical methods, relatedness, reporting of descriptive and outcome data, and the volume of data issues that are important to consider in genetic association studies. The STREGA recommendations do not prescribe or dictate how a genetic association study should be designed but seek to enhance the transparency of its reporting, regardless of choices made during design, conduct, or analysis.
Gene–disease associations; Genetics; Gene–environment interaction; Systematic review; Meta analysis; Reporting recommendations; Epidemiology; Genome-wide association
The goal of this study is to investigate the relationship between the Val66Met polymorphism in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and body mass index (BMI) in two sizable and well-characterized populations of British women: the British Women's Heart and Health Study (BWHHS) (age 60–79 years) and the mothers from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (age 16–44 years). We genotyped the Val66Met polymorphism (rs6265) in these two populations, and conducted a linear regression analysis to test for an association between this polymorphism and BMI. Both study populations indicated an association between BMI and the Val66Met polymorphism, with individuals carrying the Met–Met genotype having a lower mean BMI than those with the Val–Met or Val–Val genotypes (in the BWHHS): mean BMI difference=−0.911 kg/m2, 95% confidence interval (CI): −1.70 to −0.12, P=0.023; in the mothers from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC): mean BMI difference=−0.57 kg/m2, 95%CI: −1.08 to −0.054, P=0.03). In a pooled analysis of these two studies, together with one further published study that provided data in a suitable format for inclusion in our meta-analysis, we found a pooled difference of −0.76 (95% CI: −1.16, −0.036) for adult women; I2–test for heterogeneity=51%, P=0.13. Our study indicated an association between BDNF and BMI in two general population studies of women. The exact role of BDNF in weight regulation merits further investigation.