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Maternal lipid levels associated with offspring lipid levels in childhood

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October 31, 2016

Maternal lipid parameters in early pregnancy, including total cholesterol, apolipoprotein A-I, apolipoprotein B and triglyceride levels, are positively associated with lipid profile in offspring aged 5 to 6 years, with a stronger association observed in girls, according to an analysis of a population-based birth cohort in Amsterdam.

In an analysis of 1,133 mother–child pairs, researchers also found that maternal lipid profile was not associated with glycemic parameters in offspring, and that offspring fat percentage had no mediating role in the associations.

“Although we found no evidence for the programming of offspring’s lipids through glycemic control, sex differences indicate a programming factor in the association between maternal and offspring’s lipids,” Noekie van Lieshout, MSc, of the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam, and colleagues wrote. “There is increasing evidence that this is due to a different placental function between boys and girls, caused by differences in gene expression in response to maternal metabolic status. However, the exact mechanism behind the sex differences in placental function and the response in later life remains unclear.”

Van Lieshout and colleagues analyzed data from mother–child pairs participating in the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD) study, a prospective population-based cohort designed to assess which maternal conditions during pregnancy and early-life conditions explain the child’s health at birth, as well as in later life (73% Dutch; mean maternal age during pregnancy, 32 years). Women completed questionnaires and provided nonfasting blood samples at median 13 weeks’ gestation. Offspring (49% boys) provided a fasting blood sample during a health exam at age 5 to 6 years; body fat percentage was also measured via arm-to-leg bioelectrical impedance analysis. Researchers used linear regression analysis to measure associations between independent maternal lipids and offspring’s lipids, as well as glucose, C-peptide and the homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).

After adjustment for gestational age at blood sampling, offspring’s sex, and age at health exam, researchers observed a positive association between maternal total cholesterol and offspring total and LDL cholesterol in both boys and girls; however, a positive association between maternal total cholesterol and offspring triglycerides was observed only in girls.

Maternal ApoA-I was positively associated with offspring’s total cholesterol and triglycerides in girls only and offspring’s HDL cholesterol in boys only, whereas ApoB was positively associated with total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in boys and girls. Maternal triglycerides were also positively associated with offspring’s total and LDL cholesterol in girls only, and with offspring’s triglycerides in boys and girls. Additional adjustment for multiple factors, including maternal age, ethnicity, smoking, alcohol use, parity, hypertension, and child’s saturated fat and fiber intake, only minimally altered results, according to researchers.

There were no associations found between maternal lipid parameters and offspring glycemic control parameters, and there was no evidence for a mediating role of offspring fat percentage in any associations. Researchers noted that children in the cohort may be too young to detect any effects of decreased insulin sensitivity on lipid levels.

“Our results are a first indication that girls might be more affected by the maternal lipid profile,” the researchers wrote. “Further studies, with specific attention for sex differences in the associations, are necessary to confirm this hypothesis.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.