Childhood obesity tracks into adulthood, and may increase diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk in adulthood. Prospective analyses may better define the pathways between early life factors and greater childhood body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity.
The Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY) prospectively follows children from birth that are at increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes. We examined longitudinal data for 1,178 DAISY subjects (mean age at last follow-up: 6.59 years (range: 2.0–11.5 years). Birth size and diabetes exposure in utero were collected in the enrollment interview. Infant diet information was collected via interviews throughout infancy. Infant weight gain and childhood BMI were measured at clinic visits.
Female gender, diabetes exposure in utero, larger size for gestational age, shorter breastfeeding duration, and more rapid infant weight gain predicted higher childhood BMI. Formal mediation analysis suggests the effect of shorter breastfeeding duration on childhood BMI may be mediated by more rapid infant weight gain. Also, the effect of diabetes exposure in utero on childhood BMI may be mediated by larger size for gestational age.
We identified strong interrelationships between early life factors and childhood BMI. Understanding these pathways may aid childhood obesity prevention efforts.