Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Ambient Air Pollution and Newborn Size and Adiposity at Birth: Differences by Maternal Ethnicity (the Born in Bradford Study Cohort)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Ambient Air Pollution and Newborn Size and Adiposity at Birth: Differences by Maternal Ethnicity (the Born in Bradford Study Cohort)

Article excerpt


Ambient airborne particulate matter (PM) is one of the leading preventable threats to global health (Lim et al. 2012). Evidence of the association of ambient air pollution and restricted fetal growth--expressed as low birth weight (< 2,500 g), small for gestational age, and reduced birth weight--as a continuous measure is growing (Pedersen et al. 2013), but results are heterogeneous across studies (Dadvand et al. 2013; Glinianaia et al. 2004; Stieb et al. 2012). Differences in study design, sample size, population characteristics, adjustment for confounders, air pollution measurements, and exposure assessment techniques as well as the lack of knowledge on the exact biological mechanism are all likely to contribute to the observed heterogeneity of findings (Ritz and Wilhelm 2008; Slama et al. 2008; Woodruff et al. 2009). Although recent studies have successfully overcome issues related to adjustment for confounders, sample size, study design, and exposure assessment (Dadvand et al. 2013; Pedersen et al. 2013), as far as we are aware there is no study to date that assesses the impact of maternal exposure to air pollution on newborn's fat mass. Animal studies suggest that gestational exposure to [PM.sub.2.5] increases the predisposition to insulin resistance and to thicker adipose tissues (Bolton et al. 2012). Maternal smoking during pregnancy has been associated with reduced offspring size at birth (weight, length, and head circumference), but not with smaller skinfold thickness (Bernstein et al. 2000; D'Souza et al. 1981; Luciano et al. 1998).

In newborns, measurements of upper body skinfold thickness may provide an estimate of the total body fat of the infant (Farmer 1985). Postnatal fat accumulation occurs predominantly in the extremities; hence triceps (upper arm) skinfold thickness provides an indication of the peripheral body fat mass, and subscapular (upper back) skinfold thickness reflects the subcutaneus/ visceral fat (Ketel et al. 2007; Snijder et al. 2006). Subcutaneous/visceral fat mass has increasingly been related to the pathogenesis of insulin resistance and other precursors of cardiovascular disease (Patel and Abate 2013; Sniderman et al. 2007). Growth trajectory throughout childhood, including skinfold thickness during infancy and childhood, has been extensively studied in England (Tanner and Whitehouse 1962) and in India (Bansal et al. 2008; Krishnaveni et al. 2005; Yajnik et al. 2002, 2003).

Infants of South Asian origin have a higher prevalence of low birth weight than White Europeans [United Nations Children's Fund, World Health Organization (UNICEF, WHO) 2004], and the difference seems to be independent of socioeconomic status (Margetts et al. 2002). The total body fat volume of South Asian newborns is similar to the one of white British newborns, but their mean birth weight is 200 g lower (West et al. 2013; Yajnik et al. 2003). During childhood and adolescence, South Asians have relatively greater subscapular skinfolds than white British (Bansal et al. 2008; Krishnaveni et al. 2005), which may lead to disproportionate subcutaneous adiposity for a given body mass index (BMI) (Snijder et al. 2006) and increased risks of adverse cardiometabolic outcomes including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in adulthood (Misra and Khurana 2009).

Differences in newborn body composition and the subsequent increased risk of adverse cardiometabolic outcomes has been linked to both newborn's size and prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution (Thiering et al. 2013).

In the present study, we examined the association of prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution with mean birth weight and head circumference in an ethnically mixed birth cohort population from Bradford, England. Effect modification by maternal ethnicity was examined by comparison of the associations between the two main ethnic groups: white British and Pakistani-origin populations. …

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