73. An examination of sex differences in associations between cord blood adipokines and childhood adiposity (lay summary)

Ashley-Martin J, Karaceper M, Dodds L, Arbuckle TE, Ettinger AS, Fraser WD, Muckle G, Monnier P, Fisher M, Kuhle S. Pediatric Obesity 2020 Mar;15(3):e12587. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12587

Adipokines (leptin and adiponectin) are hormones secreted by adipose tissue (fat).  They play an important role in long-term energy storage and have a major influence on reproductive function, blood pressure regulation, the immune response, and many other body processes.  Leptin helps maintain body weight by regulating long-term food intake and energy expenditure.  Adiponectin influences the body’s response to insulin and protects against type 2 diabetes.

The objective of this MIREC Biobank project was to examine whether levels of these adipokine hormones in infant’s umbilical cord blood were associated with later development of childhood obesity.

As part of this project, leptin and adiponectin levels were measured in the banked umbilical cord blood of MIREC infants.  In the MIREC-CD Plus study, the weight, height and skinfold thickness of 550 MIREC children were measured once between ages 2 and 5 years of age.   Skinfold thickness measures (an estimate of body fat just below the skin) was taken on the arm and back of each child. The child’s body mass index (BMI) was calculated as the weight in kilograms divided by the height-squared (kg/m2).

The researchers found that cord blood adiponectin levels were associated with small increases in BMI and skinfold thicknesses in boys but not girls. Further, a doubling of adiponectin levels was associated with a 30% increased risk of boys being overweight or obese. Leptin levels measured in cord blood were not associated with any of the body measurements taken in boys or girls.

In conclusion, this study suggested that there are differences between boys and girls in associations between adiponectin measured at birth and the child’s risk of being overweight or obese.  In future studies such as MIREC-ENDO, researchers can evaluate whether the associations observed in preschool aged children persist into the adolescent and teenage years.

This study was led by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax.