Associations between early body mass index trajectories and later metabolic risk factors in European children: the IDEFICS study

Claudia Börnhorst, Kate Tilling, Paola Russo, Yannis Kourides, Nathalie Michels, Denés Molnár, Gerado Rodríguez, Luis A Moreno, Vittorio Krogh, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, Wolfgang Ahrens, Iris Pigeot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Faster growth seems to be a common factor in several hypotheses relating early life exposures to subsequent health. This study aims to investigate the association between body mass index (BMI) trajectories during infancy/childhood and later metabolic risk in order to identify sensitive periods of growth affecting health. In a first step, BMI trajectories of 3301 European children that participated in the multi-centre Identification and Prevention of Dietary and Lifestyle-induced Health Effects in Children and Infants (IDEFICS) study were modelled using linear-spline mixed-effects models. The estimated random coefficients indicating initial subject-specific BMI and rates of change in BMI over time were used as exposure variables in a second step and related to a metabolic syndrome (MetS) score and its single components based on conditional regression models (mean age at outcome assessment: 8.5 years). All exposures under investigation, i.e. BMI at birth, rates of BMI change during infancy (0 to <9 months), early childhood (9 months to <6 years) and later childhood (≥6 years) as well as current BMI z-score were significantly associated with the later MetS score. Associations were strongest for the rate of BMI change in early childhood (1.78 [1.66; 1.90]; β estimate and 99 % confidence interval) and current BMI z-score (1.16 [0.96; 1.38]) and less pronounced for BMI at birth (0.62 [0.47; 0.78]). Results slightly differed with regard to the single metabolic factors. Starting from birth rapid BMI growth, especially in the time window of 9 months to <6 years, is significantly related to later metabolic risk in children. Much of the associations of early BMI growth may further be mediated through the effects on subsequent BMI growth.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2015


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