Rationale and design of the Baylor Infant Twin Study-A study assessing obesity-related risk factors from infancy

Obes Sci Pract. 2020 Nov 11;7(1):63-70. doi: 10.1002/osp4.463. eCollection 2021 Feb.


Background: Early childhood (0-3 years) is a critical period for obesity prevention, when tendencies in eating behaviors and physical activity are established. Yet, little is understood about how the environment shapes children's genetic predisposition for these behaviors during this time. The Baylor Infant Twin Study (BITS) is a two phase study, initiated to study obesity risk factors from infancy. Data collection has been completed for Phase 1 in which three sub-studies pilot central measures for Phase 2. A novel infant temperament assessment, based on observations made by trained researchers was piloted in Behavior Observation Pilot Protocol (BOPP) study, a new device for measuring infant feeding parameters (the "orometer") in the Baylor Infant Orometer (BIO), and methods for analyzing DNA methylation in twins of unknown chorionicity in EpiTwin.

Methods: EpiTwin was a cross-sectional study of neonatal twins, while up to three study visits occurred for the other studies, at 4- (BOPP, BIO), 6- (BOPP), and 12- (BOPP, BIO) of age. Measurements for BOPP and BIO included temperament observations, feeding observations, and body composition assessments while EpiTwin focused on collecting samples of hair, urine, nails, and blood for quantifying methylation levels at 10 metastable epialleles. Additional data collected include demographic information, zygosity, chorionicity, and questionnaire-based measures of infant behaviors.

Results: Recruitment for all three studies was completed in early 2020. EpiTwin recruited 80 twin pairs (50% monochorionic), 31 twin pairs completed the BOPP protocol, and 68 singleton infants participated in BIO.

Conclusions: The psychometric properties of the data from all three studies are being analyzed currently. The resulting findings will inform the development of the full BITS protocol, with the goal of completing assessments at 4-, 6-, 12-, and 14-month of age for 400 twin pairs.

Keywords: design paper; epigenetics; infants; obesity; temperament; twin study.