1 Section for Metabolic Genetics, The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Department of Public Health, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet3 unknown4 Section for Metabolic Genetics, The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
BACKGROUND: Pre- and perinatal factors and preschool body size may help identify children developing overweight, but these factors might have changed during the development of the obesity epidemic. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to assess the associations between early life risk indicators and overweight at the age of 9 and 15 years at different stages of the obesity epidemic. METHODS: We used two population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohorts including 4111 children born in 1966 (NFBC1966) and 5414 children born in 1985-1986 (NFBC1986). In both cohorts, we used the same a priori defined prenatal factors, maternal body mass index (BMI), birth weight, infant weight (age 5 months and 1 year), and preschool BMI (age 2-5 years). We used internal references in early childhood to define percentiles of body size (<50, 50-75, 75-90 and >90) and generalized linear models to study the association with overweight, according to the International Obesity Taskforce (IOTF) definitions, at the ages of 9 and 15 years. RESULTS: The prevalence of overweight at the age of 15 was 9% for children born in 1966 and 16% for children born in 1986. However, medians of infant weight and preschool BMI changed little between the cohorts, and we found similar associations between maternal BMI, infant weight, preschool BMI, and later overweight in the two cohorts. At 5 years, children above the 90th percentile had approximately a 12 times higher risk of being overweight at the age of 15 years compared to children below the 50th percentile in both cohorts. CONCLUSIONS: The associations between early body size and adolescent overweight showed remarkable stability, despite the increase in prevalence of overweight over the 20 years between the cohorts. Using consequently defined internal percentiles may be a valuable tool in clinical practice.