Appetite and Growth: A Longitudinal Sibling Analysis | Child Development | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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Original Investigation
April 2014

Appetite and Growth: A Longitudinal Sibling Analysis

Author Affiliations
  • 1Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, England
  • 2Division of Health and Social Care Research, King’s College London, London, England
JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(4):345-350. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4951

Importance  Identifying early markers of future obesity risk can help target preventive interventions. Several studies have shown that a heartier appetite in infancy is a risk factor for more rapid weight gain, but to date no investigations have been able to rule out familial confounding.

Objectives  To use a sibling design (data from same-sex, dizygotic twin pairs) to test the hypothesis that sibling differences in infant appetite predicted differential weight gain during childhood.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Gemini is a population-based twin cohort among the general United Kingdom population born between March 1, 2007, and December 15, 2007. Growth trajectories were analyzed from birth to age 15 months. Appetite-discordant pairs were selected from 800 nonidentical, same-sex twin pairs.

Exposures  Appetite during the first 3 months of life was assessed with the food responsiveness (FR) and satiety responsiveness (SR) subscales from the Baby Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. Discordance was defined as a within-pair difference of at least 1 SD.

Main Outcomes and Measures  A mean of 11.5 weight measurements per child were available between birth and age 15 months. Multilevel models, adjusted for sex and birth weight, compared growth curves for the higher-appetite vs lower-appetite twins.

Results  In total, 172 pairs were discordant for SR and 121 pairs for FR. Within-pair analyses showed that those with higher FR and those with lower SR grew faster than their sibling. At age 6 months, those with higher FR were 654 (95% CI, 395-913) g heavier and at age 15 months were 991 (95% CI, 484-1498) g heavier. For sibling pairs discordant for SR, the weight differences between siblings were 637 (95% CI, 438-836) g at age 6 months and 918 (95% CI, 569-1267) g at age 15 months.

Conclusions and Relevance  A heartier appetite (indexed with higher FR or lower SR) in early infancy is prospectively associated with more rapid growth up to age 15 months in a design controlling for potential familial confounding, supporting a causal role for appetite in childhood weight gain. Appetite could be an early marker for risk of weight gain in the current obesogenic environment and might be a potential target for preventive interventions.