Associations of prenatal metabolomics profiles with early childhood growth trajectories and obesity risk in African Americans: the CANDLE study

Qi Zhao, Zunsong Hu, Mehmet Kocak, Jiawang Liu, Jay H. Fowke, Joan C. Han, David Kakhniashvili, Kaja Z. Lewinn, Nicole R. Bush, W. Alex Mason, Frances A. Tylavsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Prenatal metabolomics profiles, providing measures of in utero nutritional and environmental exposures, may improve the prediction of childhood outcomes. We aimed to identify prenatal plasma metabolites associated with early childhood body mass index (BMI) trajectories and overweight/obesity risk in offspring. Methods: This study included 450 African American mother-child pairs from the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood Study. An untargeted metabolomics analysis was performed on the mothers’ plasma samples collected during the second trimester. The children’s BMI-z-score trajectories from birth to age 4 [rising-high- (9.8%), moderate- (68.2%), and low-BMI (22.0%)] and overweight/obesity status at age 4 were the main outcomes. The least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) was used to select the prenatal metabolites associated with childhood outcomes. Results: The mothers were 24.5 years old on average at recruitment, 76.4% having education less than 12 years and 80.0% with Medicaid or Medicare. In LASSO, seven and five prenatal metabolites were associated with the BMI-z-score trajectories and overweight/obese at age 4, respectively. These metabolites are mainly from/relevant to the pathways of steroid biosynthesis, amino acid metabolism, vitamin B complex, and xenobiotics metabolism (e.g., caffeine and nicotine). The odds ratios (95% CI) associated with a one SD increase in the prenatal metabolite risk scores (MRSs) constructed from the LASSO-selected metabolites were 2.97 (1.95–4.54) and 2.03 (1.54–2.67) for children being in the rising-high-BMI trajectory group and overweight/obesity at age 4, respectively. The MRSs significantly improved the risk prediction for childhood outcomes beyond traditional prenatal risk factors. The increase (95% CI) in the area under the receiver operating characteristic curves were 0.10 (0.03–0.18) and 0.07 (0.02–0.12) for the rising-high-BMI trajectory (P = 0.005) and overweight/obesity at age 4 (P = 0.007), respectively. Conclusions: Prenatal metabolomics profiles advanced prediction of early childhood growth trajectories and obesity risk in offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1439-1447
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


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