Objective: Early weight gain is associated with an increased risk of obesity. It is not known whether rapid weight gain in foetal life and infancy is also associated with increased abdominal adiposity. We examined the associations of foetal and postnatal growth characteristics with abdominal fat mass at the age of 2 years.
Design: This study was performed in 481 children participating in a prospective cohort study from early foetal life onward.
Measurements: Foetal and postnatal growth characteristics in second and third trimester, at birth and at the age of 2 years were related to abdominal fat mass (subcutaneous distance and area, preperitoneal distance and area) measured by ultrasound at the age of 2 years.
Results: Foetal and birth weight were not associated with abdominal subcutaneous fat mass. Estimated foetal weight in second trimester of pregnancy was inversely associated with preperitoneal fat area [-3.73% (95% confidence interval -7.23, -0.10)] per standard deviation score increase in weight. Weight gain from birth to the age of 2 years was positively associated with preperitoneal fat mass measures. These associations remained significant after adjustment for age, sex, breastfeeding and body mass index. Positive associations were found between catch-up growth in weight and abdominal fat mass measures.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that rapid growth rates during foetal life and infancy are associated with increased abdominal subcutaneous and preperitoneal fat mass in healthy children. Further studies need to explore whether these associations persist in later life and are related to metabolic syndrome outcomes.