Prenatal development and adolescent obesity: Two distinct pathways to diabetes in adulthood


Boone-Heinonen, Janne; Sacks, Rebecca M.; Takemoto, Erin E.; Hooker, Elizabeth R.; Dieckmann, Nathan F.; Harrod, Curtis S.; & Thornburg, Kent L. (2018). Prenatal development and adolescent obesity: Two distinct pathways to diabetes in adulthood. Childhood Obesity. vol. 14 (3) pp. 173-181


Objective Higher body–mass index (BMI) and lower birth weight (BW) are associated with elevated risk of diabetes in adulthood, but the extent to which they compose two distinct pathways is unclear. Methods We used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a cohort of adolescents (1994–1995) followed for 14 years over four waves into adulthood (n = 13,413). Sex-stratified path analysis was used to examine pathways from BW [kg; linear (BW) and quadratic (BW2)] to latent trajectories in BMI from adolescence to adulthood to prevalent diabetes or prediabetes (pre/diabetes) in adulthood, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. Results Two pathways from BW to pre/diabetes were characterized: one from higher BW to elevated BMI and pre/diabetes and a second from lower BW, independent of BMI. In the BMI-independent pathway, greater BW was associated with marginally lower odds of pre/diabetes in women, but not men. Girls born at lower and higher BW exhibited elevated BMI in adolescence [coeff (95% CI): BW: −2.1 (−4.1, −0.05); BW2: 0.43 (0.09, 0.76)]; higher BW predicted marginally faster BMI gain and higher adolescent BMI and faster BMI gain were associated with pre/diabetes [coeff (95% CI): BMI intercept: 0.09 (0.06, 0.11); BMI slope: 0.11 (0.07, 0.15)]. In boys, BW was weakly associated with BMI intercept and slope; BMI slope, but not BMI intercept, was positively associated with pre/diabetes [coeff (95% CI): 0.29 (0.19, 0.39)]. Conclusions Findings suggest that in girls, slowing BMI gain is critical for diabetes prevention, yet it may not address distinct pathology stemming from early life.



adolescents birth weight body mass index developmental origins obesity

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Childhood Obesity


Boone-Heinonen, Janne
Sacks, Rebecca M.
Takemoto, Erin E.
Hooker, Elizabeth R.
Dieckmann, Nathan F.
Harrod, Curtis S.
Thornburg, Kent L.

Year Published


Volume Number


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April 6, 2018



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