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Does birth weight predict childhood diet in the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children?
  1. W A Shultis1,
  2. S D Leary2,
  3. A R Ness2,
  4. C J Bain1,3,
  5. P M Emmett2,
  6. and the ALSPAC Study Team
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Unit of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, Department of Community-Based Medicine, University of Bristol
  3. 3School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S D Leary
 Unit of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, Department of Community-based Medicine, University of Bristol, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK;


Study objective: Low birth weight predicts cardiovascular disease in adulthood, and one possible explanation is that children with lower birth weight consume more fat than those born heavier. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate associations between birth weight and childhood diet, and in particular, to test the hypothesis that birth weight is inversely related to total and saturated fat intake.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: South west England.

Participants: A subgroup of children enrolled in the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children, with data on birth weight and also diet at ages 8, 18, 43 months, and 7 years (1152, 998, 848, and 771 children respectively).

Main results: Associations between birth weight and diet increased in strength from age 8 to 43 months, but had diminished by age 7 years. Fat, saturated fat, and protein intakes were inversely, and carbohydrate intake was positively associated with birth weight at 43 months of age, after adjusting for age, sex, and energy intake. After adjustment for other confounders, all associations were weakened, although there was still a suggestion of a relation with saturated fat (−0.48 (95% CI −0.97, 0.02) g/day per 500 g increase in birth weight. Similar patterns were seen in boys and girls separately, and when the sample was restricted to those with complete data at all ages.

Conclusions: A small inverse association was found between birth weight and saturated fat intake in children at 43 months of age but this was not present at 7 years of age. This study therefore provides little evidence that birth weight modifies subsequent childhood diet.

  • birth weight
  • diet
  • fat intake
  • childhood
  • fetal programming
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  • Funding: WAS was supported by a PhD studentship from the Medical Research Council, UK, and CJB was supported in part by a University of Bristol Leverhulme Visiting Fellowship. The Avon longitudinal study of parents and children has been funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, UK Department of Health, Department of the Environment, DfEE, National Institutes of Health, and a variety of medical research charities and commercial companies.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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