Prenatal Development and Adolescent Obesity: Two Distinct Pathways to Diabetes in Adulthood

Janne Boone-Heinonen, Rebecca M. Sacks, Erin E. Takemoto, Elizabeth R. Hooker, Nathan F. DIeckmann, Curtis S. Harrod, Kent L. Thornburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Higher body-mass index (BMI) and lower birth weight (BW) are associated with elevated risk of diabetes in adulthood, but the extent to which they compose two distinct pathways is unclear. Methods: We used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a cohort of adolescents (1994-1995) followed for 14 years over four waves into adulthood (n = 13,413). Sex-stratified path analysis was used to examine pathways from BW [kg; linear (BW) and quadratic (BW2)] to latent trajectories in BMI from adolescence to adulthood to prevalent diabetes or prediabetes (pre/diabetes) in adulthood, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. Results: Two pathways from BW to pre/diabetes were characterized: one from higher BW to elevated BMI and pre/diabetes and a second from lower BW, independent of BMI. In the BMI-independent pathway, greater BW was associated with marginally lower odds of pre/diabetes in women, but not men. Girls born at lower and higher BW exhibited elevated BMI in adolescence [coeff (95% CI): BW: -2.1 (-4.1, -0.05); BW2: 0.43 (0.09, 0.76)]; higher BW predicted marginally faster BMI gain and higher adolescent BMI and faster BMI gain were associated with pre/diabetes [coeff (95% CI): BMI intercept: 0.09 (0.06, 0.11); BMI slope: 0.11 (0.07, 0.15)]. In boys, BW was weakly associated with BMI intercept and slope; BMI slope, but not BMI intercept, was positively associated with pre/diabetes [coeff (95% CI): 0.29 (0.19, 0.39)]. Conclusions: Findings suggest that in girls, slowing BMI gain is critical for diabetes prevention, yet it may not address distinct pathology stemming from early life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-181
Number of pages9
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • adolescents
  • birth weight
  • body mass index
  • developmental origins
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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