Adiposity and hyperinsulinemia in Indians are present at birth

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Dec;87(12):5575-80. doi: 10.1210/jc.2002-020434.


We studied body size and cord blood leptin and insulin concentrations in newborn urban Indian (Pune, India) and white Caucasian (London, UK) babies to test the hypothesis that the adiposity and hyperinsulinemia of Indians are present at birth. Indian babies (n = 157) were lighter in weight compared with white Caucasian babies [n = 67; median weight, 2805 g vs. 3475 g, respectively; P < 0.001, adjusted for gestational age and sex; -1.52 SD score; confidence interval (CI), -1.66, -1.42] and had smaller abdominal (-2.39 SD score; CI, -2.52, -2.09), midarm (-1.47 SD score; CI, -1.58, -1.34), and head (-1.23 SD score; CI, -1.42, -1.13) circumferences. However, their skinfolds were relatively preserved: subscapular (central) skinfold (-0.32 SD score; CI, -0.43, -0.20) was better preserved than triceps (peripheral) skinfold (-0.86 SD score; CI, -0.97, -0.75). Cord plasma leptin (median, 6.2 ng/ml Pune and 6.4 ng/ml London) and insulin (median, 34.7 pmol/liter Pune and 20.8 pmol/liter London) concentrations were comparable in the two populations but were higher in Indians when adjusted for birth weight, confirming relative adiposity and hyperinsulinemia of Indian babies. Indian mothers were smaller in all respects, compared with white Caucasian mothers, except subscapular skinfold, which was similar in the two populations. Our results support the intrauterine origin of adiposity, central adiposity, and hyperinsulinemia in Indians. Further research should concentrate on elucidating genetic and environmental influences on fetal growth and body composition. Prevention of insulin resistance syndrome in Indians will need to address regulation of fetal growth in addition to prevention of obesity in later life.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Constitution
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / congenital*
  • Hyperinsulinism / ethnology
  • Hyperinsulinism / pathology*
  • India
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin / blood
  • London
  • Mothers
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Parturition*
  • White People*


  • Insulin
  • Leptin