What accounts for ethnic differences in newborn skinfold thickness comparing South Asians and white Caucasians? Findings from the START and FAMILY birth cohorts

Authors : Anand SS, Gupta MK, Schulze KM, Desai D, Abdalla N, Wahi G, Wade C, Scheufler P, McDonald SD, Morrison KM, Vasudevan A, Dwarakanath P, Srinivasan K, Kurpad A, Gerstein HC, Teo KK

Publication Year : 2015

Abstract :

South Asians are a high risk group for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. We sought to determine ethnic differences in newborn adiposity comparing South Asians (SA) to white Caucasians (whites).

790 pregnant women (401 SA, 389 whites) and their full term offspring from two birth cohorts in Canada were analyzed. Pregnant women completed a health assessment including a 75 gram oral glucose tolerance test to assess for dysglycemia. Birthweight, length, waist and hip circumference, and triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness (a surrogate measure of body adiposity) were measured in all newborns. Multivariate regression was used to identify maternal factors associated with newborn skin fold measurements.

South Asian women were younger (30.1 vs 31.8 years, P<0.001), their pre-pregnancy body mass index was lower (23.7 vs 26.2, P<0.0001), and gestational diabetes was substantially higher (21 vs 13%, P=0.005) compared to whites. Among full-term newborns, South Asians were lower birthweight (3283 vs 3517 g, P=0.0001), had greater skinfold thickness (11.7 vs 10.6 mm; P=0.0001) and higher waist circumference (31.1 vs 29.9 cm, P=0.0001) compared to whites. Risk factors for newborn skinfold thickness included South Asian ethnicity (standardized estimate (SE): 0.24; P<0.0001), maternal glucose (SE: 0.079; P=0.04), and maternal body fat (SE: 0.14; P=0.0002).

South Asian newborns are lower birth weight and have greater skinfold thickness, compared to white newborns, and this is influenced by maternal body fat and glucose. Interventions aimed at reducing body fat prior to pregnancy and gestational diabetes during pregnancy in South Asians may favourably alter newborn body composition and require evaluation.International Journal of Obesity accepted article preview online, 28 August 2015. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.171.