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Clinical Studies and Practice

Association of nutrition in early life with body fat and serum leptin at adult age

Abstract

Background:

There is overwhelming evidence that experiences during early life could have long-term health consequences. However, the role of early nutrition in programming obesity and leptin resistance is still poorly understood.

Objective:

We aimed at determining whether nutritional intakes in early life are associated with body composition and hormonal status at 20 years.

Subjects:

Healthy infants participating in the two-decade-long prospective ELANCE (Etude Longitudinale Alimentation Nutrition Croissance des Enfants) study were examined at 10 months and 2 years. At 20 years, weight, height, subscapular and triceps skinfold thicknesses, fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM) assessed via bioelectrical impedance analysis, and serum leptin concentration were recorded in 73 subjects still participating in the follow-up.

Results:

In adjusted linear regression models, an increase by 100 kcal in energy intake at 2 years was associated with higher subscapular skinfold thickness (β=6.4% SF, 95% confidence interval 2.53–10.30, P=0.002) and higher FFM (0.50 kg, 0.06–0.95, P=0.03) at 20 years. An increase by 1% energy from fat at 2 years was associated with lower subscapular skinfold thickness (−2.3% SF, −4.41 to −0.18, P=0.03), lower FM (−0.31 kg, −0.60 to −0.01, P=0.04) and lower serum leptin concentration (−0.21 μg l−1, −0.39 to −0.03, P=0.02) at 20 years.

Conclusions:

Low-fat intake in early life was negatively associated with body fat (particularly at the trunk site) and serum leptin concentration at 20 years, suggesting that early low-fat intake could increase the susceptibility to develop overweight and leptin resistance at later ages. These findings substantiate current recommendations against restricting fat intake in early life and open new directions for investigating the origin of obesity.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the ‘Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie de Paris’ for its support in conducting the study at the health centers for children and adults. We are indebted to the participants and their parents and to the field and laboratory staff for their involvement and contribution. A grant from the Institut Benjamin Delessert was obtained to perform the data collection at the age of 20 years.

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Institut Benjamin Delessert had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data; and preparation or review of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to M F Rolland-Cachera.

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Rolland-Cachera, M., Maillot, M., Deheeger, M. et al. Association of nutrition in early life with body fat and serum leptin at adult age. Int J Obes 37, 1116–1122 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2012.185

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2012.185

Keywords

  • nutrition
  • cohort study
  • metabolic programming
  • leptin
  • child development

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