Objective: To examine the association between parental BMI and offspring cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.
Research design and methods: The study comprised 940 children (9.5 +/- 0.4 years) and 873 adolescents (15.5 +/- 0.5 years). Parental weight and height were reported by the mother and the father, and BMI was calculated. CVD risk factors included total (sum of five skinfolds) and central (waist circumference) body fat, blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and fibrinogen.
Results: Maternal and paternal BMI were positively associated with total and central fatness in offspring (P < 0.001). BMIs of both parents were significantly related to fibrinogen levels (P < 0.02), but these associations disappeared when controlling for fatness. There was a positive relationship between maternal and paternal BMI and waist circumference in the offspring regardless of total adiposity and height (P < 0.001). Maternal BMI was negatively associated with offspring cardiorespiratory fitness independently of fatness (P < 0.02). These relationships persisted when overweight descendants were excluded from the analysis. There were no significant associations between parental BMI and the other CVD risk factors.
Conclusions: Both maternal and paternal BMI increase CVD risk factors of their offspring, characterized by total and central body fat, and higher maternal BMI was associated with poorer cardiorespiratory fitness. Our findings give further support to the concept that adiposity in parents transmits susceptibility to CVD risk to descendants, which is detectable even in the absence of overweight in offspring.