Predictors of body size in the first 2 y of life: a high-risk study of human obesity

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Apr;28(4):503-13. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802517.


Objective: To ascertain the predictors of body size at 2 y of age.

Design: : Prospective, longitudinal study of risk factors for weight gain of infants at high or low risk of obesity by virtue of their mothers' obesity or leanness.

Subjects: A total of 40 infants of obese mothers and 38 infants of lean mothers, equally divided among boys and girls.

Methods: Measurement of dependent variables: weight, length and skinfold thicknesses at 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months and percent body fat at 3, 12 and 24 months. Measurement of independent variables: average daily caloric consumption at 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months; and, at 3 months, nutritive sucking behavior during a test meal, total energy expenditure (TEE), sleeping energy expenditure (SEE), estimation of nonsleeping energy expenditure (TEE-SEE) and socioeconomic status. Parental weights and heights were obtained by self-report at the time of recruitment. Partial correlation and mixed effects linear regression analyses were performed.

Results: Measures of body size (weight, length, skinfold thicknesses) and percent of body fat were almost identical between high- and low-risk groups at all times. Energy intake during six occasions over the 2 y, sucking behavior, family income and TEE predicted weight gain, controlling for body length. Parental body mass index was not associated with the child's body size during the first 2 y. During the first year, there were strong lagged correlations between energy intake and body weight and smaller correlations between protein intake and body weight.

Conclusion: Energy intake, and not energy expenditure, was the determinant of body size in these infants at 2 y of age, as it had been at 1 y. Sucking behavior and TEE (positively) and family income (negatively) also contributed to body weight at 2 y. The novel finding of a lagged correlation between energy intake and body weight early in life suggests that energy intake is programmed for future growth and development.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Body Constitution / physiology*
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sucking Behavior / physiology