Context: Higher infant growth rates are associated with an increased risk of obesity in later life.
Objective: We examined the associations of longitudinally measured fetal and infant growth patterns with total and abdominal fat distribution in childhood.
Design, setting, and participants: We performed a population-based prospective cohort study among 6464 children. We measured growth characteristics in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, at birth, and at 6, 12, and 24 months.
Main outcome measures: Body mass index, fat mass index (body fat mass/height(2)), lean mass index (body lean mass/height(2)), android/gynoid fat ratio measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, and sc and preperitoneal abdominal fat measured by ultrasound at the median age of 6.0 years (90% range, 5.7-7.4).
Results: We observed that weight gain in the second and third trimesters of fetal life and in early, mid, and late infancy were independently and positively associated with childhood body mass index (P < .05). Only infant weight gain was associated with higher fat mass index, android/gynoid fat ratio, and abdominal fat in childhood (P < .05). Children with both fetal and infant growth acceleration had the highest childhood body mass index, fat mass index, and sc abdominal fat, whereas children with fetal growth deceleration and infant growth acceleration had the highest value for android/gynoid fat ratio and the lowest value for lean mass index (P < .05).
Conclusions: Growth in both fetal life and infancy affects childhood body mass index, whereas only infant growth directly affects measured total body and abdominal fat. Fetal growth deceleration followed by infant growth acceleration may lead to an adverse body fat distribution in childhood.