OAKLAND, Calif. – Teenagers who’ve had babies experience substantially greater gains in total body fat and belly fat during adolescence compared to peers who did not become pregnant, according to a Kaiser Permanente study. The study appears in the current issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a theme issue on diabetes, obesity and related illness.
This study is among the first to examine the difference in growth and fat development among pregnant vs. never-pregnant girls from the same adolescent population. Previous studies have compared weight gain and growth in adolescent pregnancies to adult pregnant women.
“The finding is important because adolescence has been identified as one of the critical periods of development that sets the stage for the onset of obesity in adulthood, which increases risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” said Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, an epidemiologist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA. and the lead investigator of this study. “Excessive weight gain during adolescence may signal the onset and persistence of obesity and elevated insulin, lipid and blood pressure levels into young adulthood.”
While having a child during adolescence did not affect stature (attained height), it was associated with being fatter later in adolescence (age 18-19) and the amount of weight gained increased with the number of births, explained to the researchers.
Researchers looked data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study (NGHS) that included a sample of 1, 890 girls (983 black and 907 white) age 9 to 10 years at enrollment. By the end of the follow-up (age 18-19 years), black adolescents were more likely to have been pregnant and given birth, to be overweight or obese, to be more centrally obese, and to have higher percentage of body fat and body mass index (BMI) than white adolescence. Teenagers who had one birth weighed an average of 8.5 pounds more than never-pregnant teens. Teenagers who had two or more births weighed an average 13.5 pounds more than teens who were never pregnant. Researchers adjusted for baseline measurement, age, study center, family income, parental education, age at menarche, hours of television/video and also controlled for the attained height at age 18-19 when comparing gains in weight and percent body fat during adolescence for girls who gave birth compared to girls who were never pregnant.
The NGHS is a multi-center, longitudinal observational study of the development of obesity in black and white girls during adolescence and the relationship between obesity and cardiovascular disease risk factors during a 10-year period. The NGHS was designed to examine the association between behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental attributes to risk factors for cardiovascular disease in a cohort of black girls and white girls followed up from childhood to 18, 19 years. The Study was undertaken by three clinical research centers: University of California, Berkeley, University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and Westat Inc, Rockville, Maryland. The multi-center study was coordinated by the Maryland Medical Research Institute.
Additional authors on the study include: Ruth Striegel-Moore, PhD, department of psychology, Wesleyan University, Middleton, Connecticut; George Schreiber, ScD, Westat Inc., Rockville, Maryland; Mark Hudes, PhD, and Patricia B. Crawford, Dr. PH, both of the department of nutritional sciences, University of California, Berkeley; Frank Biro, MD, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio; and Stephen Daniels, MD, PhD, University of Colorado School of Medicine. This research was supported by grants from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the office of Research on Women’s Health, and the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.