Metabolic profile in early pregnancy is associated with offspring adiposity at 4 years of age: the Rhea pregnancy cohort Crete, Greece

PLoS One. 2015 May 13;10(5):e0126327. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126327. eCollection 2015.


Context: Maternal pre-pregnancy obesity may increase the risk of childhood obesity but it is unknown whether other metabolic factors in early pregnancy such as lipid profile and hypertension are associated with offspring cardiometabolic traits.

Objective: Our objective was to investigate whether fasting lipid, glucose, and insulin levels during early pregnancy and maternal pre-pregnancy weight status, are associated with offspring adiposity measures, lipid levels and blood pressure at preschool age.

Design and methods: The study included 618 mother-child pairs of the pregnancy cohort "Rhea" study in Crete, Greece. Pregnant women were recruited at the first prenatal visit (mean: 12 weeks, SD: 0.7). A subset of 348 women provided fasting serum samples for glucose and lipid measurements. Outcomes measures were body mass index, abdominal circumference, sum of skinfold thickness, and blood pressure measurements at 4 years of age. A subsample of 525 children provided non-fasting blood samples for lipid measurements.

Results: Pre-pregnancy overweight/obesity was associated with greater risk of offspring overweight/obesity (RR: 1.83, 95%CI: 1.19, 2.81), central adiposity (RR: 1.97, 95%CI: 1.11, 3.49), and greater fat mass by 5.10 mm (95%CI: 2.49, 7.71) at 4 years of age. These associations were more pronounced in girls. An increase of 40 mg/dl in fasting serum cholesterol levels in early pregnancy was associated with greater skinfold thickness by 3.30 mm (95%CI: 1.41, 5.20) at 4 years of age after adjusting for pre-pregnancy BMI and several other confounders. An increase of 10 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure in early pregnancy was associated with increased risk of offspring overweight/obesity (RR: 1.22, 95%CI: 1.03, 1.45), and greater skinfold thickness by 1.71 mm (95% CI: 0.57, 2.86) at 4 years of age.

Conclusions: Metabolic dysregulation in early pregnancy may increase the risk of obesity at preschool age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology*
  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Pediatric Obesity / blood
  • Pediatric Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Waist Circumference


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol

Grants and funding

Rhea project was financially supported by European projects (EU FP6-2003-Food-3-NewGeneris, EU FP6. STREP Hiwate, EU FP7 ENV.2007. Project No 211250 Escape, EU FP7-2008-ENV- Envirogenomarkers, EU FP7-HEALTH-2009- single stage CHICOS, EU FP7 ENV.2008. Proposal No 226285 ENRIECO, EU- FP7- HEALTH-2012 Proposal No 308333 HELIX) and the Greek Ministry of Health (Program of Prevention of obesity and neurodevelopmental disorders in preschool children, in Heraklion district, Crete, Greece: 2011-2014; “Rhea Plus”: Primary Prevention Program of Environmental Risk Factors for Reproductive Health, and Child Health: 2012-15). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.