Pediatrics

Maternal prepregnancy body mass index and offspring white matter microstructure: results from three birth cohorts

Abstract

Background and aims

Prepregnancy maternal obesity is a global health problem and has been associated with offspring metabolic and mental ill-health. However, there is a knowledge gap in understanding potential neurobiological factors related to these associations. This study explored the relation between maternal prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) and offspring brain white matter microstructure at the age of 6, 10, and 26 years in three independent cohorts.

Subjects and methods

The study used data from three European birth cohorts (n = 116 children aged 6 years, n = 2466 children aged 10 years, and n = 437 young adults aged 26 years). Information on maternal prepregnancy BMI was obtained before or during pregnancy and offspring brain white matter microstructure was measured at age 6, 10, or 26 years. We used magnetic resonance imaging-derived fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) as measures of white matter microstructure in the brainstem, callosal, limbic, association, and projection tracts. Linear regressions were fitted to examine the association of maternal BMI and offspring white matter microstructure, adjusting for several socioeconomic and lifestyle-related confounders, including education, smoking, and alcohol use.

Results

Maternal BMI was associated with higher FA and lower MD in multiple brain tracts, for example, association and projection fibers, in offspring aged 10 and 26 years, but not at 6 years. In each cohort maternal BMI was related to different white matter tract and thus no common associations across the cohorts were found.

Conclusions

Maternal BMI was associated with higher FA and lower MD in multiple brain tracts in offspring aged 10 and 26 years, but not at 6 years of age. Future studies should examine whether our observations can be replicated and explore the potential causal nature of the findings.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program [grant agreement no. 633595 DynaHEALTH] and no. 733206 LifeCycle], the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development [ZONMW Vici project 016.VICI.170.200]. The PREOBE cohort was funded by Spanish Ministry of Innovation and Science. Junta de Andalucía: Excellence Projects (P06-CTS-02341) and Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (BFU2012-40254-C03-01). The first phase of the Generation R Study is made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Medical Centre, the Erasmus University, and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMW, grant ZonMW Geestkracht 10.000.1003). The Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 is funded by University of Oulu, University Hospital of Oulu, Academy of Finland (EGEA), Sigrid Juselius Foundation, European Commission (EURO-BLCS, Framework 5 award QLG1-CT-2000-01643), NIH/NIMH (5R01MH63706:02)

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Correspondence to Hanan El Marroun.

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Verdejo-Román, J., Björnholm, L., Muetzel, R.L. et al. Maternal prepregnancy body mass index and offspring white matter microstructure: results from three birth cohorts. Int J Obes 43, 1995–2006 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-018-0268-x

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