Tracking of body size from birth to late adolescence: contributions of birth length, birth weight, duration of gestation, parents' body size, and twinship

Am J Epidemiol. 2001 Jul 1;154(1):21-9. doi: 10.1093/aje/154.1.21.


Birth weight has correlated positively with adult body mass index (BMI), but rarely have birth length, duration of gestation, or parents' body size been taken into account. The authors examined tracking of birth length and weight, adjusted for gestational age, to late adolescence, with special reference to parents' height and BMI. Longitudinal information from a nationally representative sample of Finnish twin adolescents (birth cohorts 1975-1979) and their parents was collected via questionnaires mailed when the twins were aged 16 years (n = 4,376; 2,062 males, 2,314 females) and 18 years (n = 3,917; 1,742 males, 2,175 females). The twins showed significant tracking of body size from birth to late adolescence, which was greatly influenced by their parents' body size. Height in adolescence was predicted by length and weight at birth and by parents' height, whereas BMI was predicted by birth weight and parents' BMI. An especially high risk for overweight was found for subjects of average length but a high weight at birth. These findings suggest that the intrauterine period has enduring effects on later body size but leave unresolved whether these effects are genetic or environmental.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Birth Weight*
  • Body Height*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Parents
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires