OBJECTIVES. Leptin and adiponectin are adipocyte-secreted hormones that regulate energy homeostasis and metabolism. Because their roles in the neonatal period and in early childhood are poorly understood, we aimed in this prospective cohort study to determine the extent to which umbilical cord blood leptin and adiponectin concentrations predict measures of adiposity and growth at 3 years of age.

PATIENTS AND METHODS. We studied 588 children participating in the prospective prebirth cohort study Project Viva. We examined associations of cord blood leptin and adiponectin levels with weight changes during the first 6 months of life, 3-year circulating leptin and adiponectin concentrations, and the following adiposity-related outcomes at 3 years of age: BMI z score, height-for-age z score, and sums of triceps and subscapular skinfold thicknesses to represent overall adiposity, as well as subscapular/triceps skinfold ratio to represent central adiposity.

RESULTS. Cord blood leptin and adiponectin were each directly associated with the duration of gestation and birth weight for gestational age z scores. Cord blood leptin levels were negatively associated with change in weight-for-length, weight-for-age, and length-for-age z scores between birth and 6 months of age. Similarly, cord blood adiponectin was negatively associated with change in weight-for-length and weight-for-age z scores. After adjusting for several maternal and child factors related to obesity, each 10 ng/mL increment of cord blood leptin was associated with a reduction in BMI z score and higher leptin levels at 3 years but not with skinfold thicknesses. Each 10 μg/mL increment of cord blood adiponectin was positively associated with a higher subscapular skinfold thickness/triceps skinfold thickness ratio at 3 years.

CONCLUSIONS. Lower cord blood leptin levels are associated with smaller size at birth but more pronounced weight gain in the first 6 months of life and higher BMI at 3 years of age. Cord blood adiponectin levels are also directly associated with birth weight for gestational age, inversely associated with weight gain in the first 6 months of life, and predict an increase in central adiposity at age 3 years.

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