Maternal stress level tied to female offspring BMI
Maternal stress level during the first postnatal year was “strongly positively associated” with BMI z-score in girls, according to findings recently published in BMC Public Health.
“The majority of studies conducted so far focused on prenatal or postnatal stress exclusively, while longitudinal maternal stress assessments in relation to children’s weight development are rare,” Beate Leppert, PhD candidate at the department of environmental immunology at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues wrote.
Researchers investigated the link between maternal stress from pregnancy until her child was 2 years old and BMI trajectories in the child until he or she was 5 years old. They also assessed which socioeconomic and environmental stimuli might play a role in the maternal stress level. Data from 498 mother-child pairs from a previously existing German cohort were analyzed.
Leppert and colleagues found about 15.5 % of the analyzed girls became overweight during the first 5 years of life. A stratified GEE model showed a positive association of BMI z-scores with maternal stress during the first year after birth in girls only (adjusted beta = 0.3; 95% CI, 0.11-0.49). The BMI z-score of boys was not impacted.
In addition, two sociodemographic factors — low household income and parental separation and divorce — and three environmental factors — poor living conditions, burdens due to traffic, and exposure to residential noise — led to the maternal perceived stress level and mediated the effect of the girls’ BMI z-scores.
Some of Leppert’s colleagues provided take-home messages on the study for clinicians.
“The first year of life seems to be a sensitive phase and a characteristic factor for the tendency to be overweight," study co-author Kristin M. Junge, PhD, a scientist at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, said in a press release. “After all, mothers and children usually spend the entire first year together — a lot of time in which the mother's perceived stress and/or associated behavior is experienced by the child.”
“During this time, special attention should therefore be paid to the mother's condition,” Saskia Trump, of the department of environmental immunology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and another study co-author added. – by Janel Miller
Disclosures: Leppert reports being supported by the “Helmholtz Impulse and Networking Fund” through the “Helmholtz Interdisciplinary Graduate School for Environmental Research (HIGRADE).” Junge reports no relevant financial disclosures. Trump reports being supported by the Helmholtz Initiative for Personalized Medicine (iMed) and the e:Med initiative of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, grant 01ZX1402D). Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.