Volume 25 (2015) Issue 1 Pages 2-7
Recently, it has been suggested that fetal and infant environments are associated with childhood and adulthood health status, specifically regarding presence of obesity and chronic diseases. This concept is known as the “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesis.” Thus, it is necessary to collect information about the fetal and infancy periods in order to examine the association between fetal and infancy exposures and later growth. Based on the DOHaD hypothesis, childhood growth trajectories, which were described by multilevel analysis, might be important in examining the effects of early-life environment on later-life health. The author and colleagues examined the association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and fetal/childhood growth, specifically risk of childhood obesity, by using the dataset from an ongoing prospective cohort study called “Project Koshu,” which enrolled pregnant women and their children from a rural area of Japan. Children born to smoking mothers were likely to have lower birth weights and, thereafter, to show an increase in body mass index compared to children of non-smoking mothers. Differences in pubertal growth patterns by gender and childhood weight status were then examined. Growth rate and height gain trajectories were similar between genders, although pubertal growth spurts were observed earlier in girls than in boys. The overweight/obese children grew faster than did the non-overweight children in the early pubertal stages, and the non-overweight children caught up and showed greater height gains at older ages. Because Project Koshu is ongoing, further studies examining new research questions will be conducted with larger sample sizes.