Early childhood infections and body mass index in adolescence

Annemarijn C. Prins-van Ginkel, Alet H. Wijga, Patricia C. J. Bruijning-Verhagen, Bert Brunekreef, Ulrike Gehring, Wim van der Hoek, Gerard H. Koppelman, Lenie van Rossem, Marianne A. B. van der Sande, Henriette A. Smit

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Background The incidence of childhood overweight and obesity is rising. It is hypothesized that infections in early childhood are associated with being overweight. This study investigated the association between the number of symptomatic infections or antibiotic prescriptions in the first 3 years of life and body mass index (BMI) in adolescence. Subjects The current study is part of the Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy population-based birth cohort study. Weight and height were measured by trained research staff at ages 12 and 16 years. The 3015 active participants at age 18 years were asked for informed consent for general practitioner (GP) data collection and 1519 gave written informed consent. Studied exposures include (1) GP-diagnosed infections, (2) antibiotic prescriptions, and (3) parent-reported infections in the first 3 years of life. Generalized estimating equation analysis was used to determine the association between each of these exposures and BMI z-score. Results Exposure data and BMI measurement in adolescence were available for 622 participants. The frequencies of GP-diagnosed infections and antibiotic prescriptions were not associated with BMI z-score in adolescence with estimates being 0.14 (95% CI -0.09-0.37) and 0.10 (95% CI -0.14-0.34) for the highest exposure categories, respectively. Having >= 6 parent-reported infections up to age 3 years was associated with a 0.23 (95% CI 0.01-0.44) higher BMI z-score compared to Conclusions For all infectious disease measures an increase in BMI z-score for the highest childhood exposure to infectious disease was observed, although only statistically significant for parent-reported infections. These results do not show an evident link with infection severity, but suggest a possible cumulative effect of repeated symptomatic infections on overweight development.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Pages (from-to)1143–1151
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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