Fat-free mass mediates the association between birth weight and aerobic fitness in youth
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionInternational Journal of Pediatric Obesity. 2011, 6(2-2), e590-e596
Objective: To investigate whether birth weight acts as a biological determinant of later aerobic fitness, and whether fat free mass may mediate this association. Methods: The European Youth Heart Study (EYHS) is a population based cohort of two age groups (10 and 15 years) from Denmark, Portugal, Estonia and Norway. Children with parentally reported birth weight >1.5kg were included (n=2,749). Data was collected on weight, height, and skin fold measures to estimate fat mass and fat free mass. Aerobic fitness (peak power, watts) was assessed using a maximal, progressive cycle ergometer test. Physical activity was collected in a subset (n=1,505) using a hipworn accelerometer and defined as total activity counts/wear time, all children with >600 minutes/day for 3 days of wear were included. Results: Lower birth weight was associated with lower aerobic fitness, after adjusting for sex, age group, country, sexual maturity and socio-economic status (ß=5.4, 95%CI 3.5, 7.3 W per 1kg increase in birth weight, p<0.001). When fat free mass was introduced as a covariate in the model, the association between birth weight and aerobic fitness was almost completely attenuated (p=0.7). Birth weight was also significantly associated with fat free mass (ß=1.4 95%CI 1.1, 1.8, p<0.001) and fat free mass was significantly associated with aerobic fitness (ß=3.6, 95%CI 3.4, 3.7, p<0.001). Further adjustment for physical activity did not alter the findings. Conclusion: Birth weight may have long-term influences on fat free mass and differences in fat free mass mediate the observed association between birth weight and aerobic fitness.
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