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Life course body size and lipid levels at 53 years in a British birth cohort
  1. Paula M L Skidmore1,
  2. Rebecca J Hardy1,
  3. Diana J Kuh1,
  4. Claudia Langenberg1,
  5. Michael E J Wadsworth1
  1. 1School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, MRC National Survey of Health and Development, University College London Medical School, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P M L Skidmore
 University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7JT, UK;p.skidmore{at}


Objectives: To investigate the association between growth in height and change in body mass index (BMI) during the life course on lipid levels at 53 years.

Methods: 2311 men and women from a British cohort study were included in analyses. Non-fasting total, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels were measured at 53 years. Height and BMI at 2, 4, 7, 11, 15 and 36 years in relation to the lipid outcomes at 53 years were assessed using multiple regression models. The effects of z scores of height and BMI at 2 years and yearly rates of change (velocities) in height and BMI between 2–7, 7–15 and 15–36 years were also considered.

Results: Total cholesterol level decreased by 0.119 mmol/l (95% CI –0.194 to –0.045) per SD increase in height at 2 years and by 0.073 mmol/l (95% CI –0.145 to –0.001) for every SD increase in height velocity between 15 years and adulthood. Similar, but weaker associations were seen for LDL cholesterol. The relationships between leg length and total and LDL cholesterol were stronger than the relationship with trunk length. Higher BMI at 36 and 53 years and greater BMI increases between 15–36 and 36–53 years were associated with higher total and LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels. The effects of growth could not be explained by birth weight or lifetime socioeconomic status.

Conclusions: Early life exposures, which restrict height growth in infancy, resulting in shorter adult leg length, may influence lipid levels in adult life.

  • BMI, body mass index
  • CVD, cardiovascular disease
  • HDL, high-density lipoprotein
  • LDL, low-density lipoprotein
  • NSHD, National Survey of Health and Development

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  • Competing interests: None.

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