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Maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring overweight: is there a dose–response relationship? An individual patient data meta-analysis



A number of meta-analyses suggest an association between any maternal smoking in pregnancy and offspring overweight obesity. Whether there is a dose–response relationship across number of cigarettes and whether this differs by sex remains unclear.


Studies reporting number of cigarettes smoked during pregnancy and offspring BMI published up to May 2015 were searched. An individual patient data meta-analysis of association between the number of cigarettes smoked during pregnancy and offspring overweight (defined according to the International Obesity Task Force reference) was computed using a generalized additive mixed model with non-linear effects and adjustment for confounders (maternal weight status, breastfeeding, and maternal education) and stratification for sex.


Of 26 identified studies, 16 authors provided data on a total of 238,340 mother–child-pairs. A linear positive association was observed between the number of cigarettes smoked and offspring overweight for up to 15 cigarettes per day with an OR increase per cigarette of 1.03, 95% CI = [1.02–1.03]. The OR flattened with higher cigarette use. Associations were similar in males and females. Sensitivity analyses supported these results.


A linear dose–response relationship of maternal smoking was observed in the range of 1–15 cigarettes per day equally in boys and girls with no further risk increase for doses above 15 cigarettes.

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We want to thank the funders of the individual studies: the UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol, the Danish National Research Foundation, Pharmacy Foundation, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Augustinus Foundation, and the Health Foundation, the US NICHD (contracts no. 1-HD-4-2803 and no. 1-HD-1-3127, R01 HD HD034568), the NHMRC, the CNPq (Portuguese acronym for the National Research Council—grant 523474/96-2) and FAPESP (Portuguese acronym for the São Paulo State Research Council—grant 00/0908-7). We would like to thank the participating families of all studies for the use of data. For the ASPAC study, we want to thank the midwives for their help in recruiting families, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists, and nurses. This work was supported by the Deutschen Forschungsgesellschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) [KR 1926/9-1, KU1443/4-1]. Dr. Gilman’s contribution was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Albers, L., Sobotzki, C., Kuß, O. et al. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring overweight: is there a dose–response relationship? An individual patient data meta-analysis. Int J Obes 42, 1249–1264 (2018).

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