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Birth Weight, Mother's Weight Affect Women's Adult Body Size

Big and small women seem to be influenced by different factors

MONDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- A woman's adult body mass index is affected by her birth weight, mother's weight and rate of weight gain in early childhood, according to a report published in the July 1 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. However, women with a smaller body mass index (BMI) in adulthood appear to be more influenced by birth weight and women with a higher adult BMI are more affected by a mother's weight gain in pregnancy.

Mary Beth Terry, Ph.D., of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues studied 261 women born between 1959 and 1965, of whom 38 percent were white, 40 percent black and 22 percent Hispanic. They used data on maternal factors, birth measures and childhood growth measures to examine whether any of them were independent predictors of adult body mass index at age 20 and 40 years.

The strongest predictor of a high BMI at ages 20 and 40 were a rapid rate of growth from ages 1 to 7 years. After taking this factor into account, birth weight and the mother's prepregnancy weight was associated with adult BMI in smaller women. The mother's weight gain in pregnancy was associated with adult BMI in women with a higher adult BMI.

"If our findings are replicated, these trends all point to dramatic long-term consequences for the prevalence of overweight in adulthood," the authors conclude.

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