Background Previous studies have shown markedly lower birthweight among infants of South Asian origin compared to those of White European origin. Whether such differences mask greater (central) adiposity in South Asian infants and whether they persist across generations in contemporary UK populations is unclear.
Objective To describe differences in term birth size between Pakistani origin and White British origin infants and investigate whether the magnitude of any differences changes depending on whether the parents and grandparents of Pakistani infants are born in the UK or South Asia.
Design Birth cohort study (Born in Bradford (BiB)).
Setting Bradford, UK.
Participants 1838 White British and 2222 Pakistani mothers and their babies who were born between 2007 and 2009.
Main outcome measures Birthweight; head, arm and abdominal circumference; subscapular and triceps skinfolds.
Results Pakistani infants were lighter (mean difference 280.5 g; 95% CI −318.4 to −242.5) than White British infants and were smaller in all other measurements following adjustment for socioeconomic position and smoking. Differences were least for subscapular skinfold thickness (mean z-score difference −0.20; 95% CI −0.29 to −0.11) and greatest for abdominal circumference (mean z-score difference −0.56; 95% CI −0.64 to −0.47). The magnitudes of differences from White British infants did not differ substantively by generation.
Conclusions Pakistani infants were smaller in all measurements but had a tendency to greater central obesity (as indicated by subscapular skinfold thickness). Differences do not appear to differ markedly across generations. This suggests that differences may be genetically driven or are affected by epigenetic or persisting behaviour characteristics.
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