OBJECTIVES: Few studies have investigated the association between the full range of birth weight and the risk of childhood obesity in high-, middle- and low-income countries. The aim of the present study is to assess the association between different levels of birth weight and the risk of obesity among children aged 9–11 years in 12 countries.
METHODS: A multinational, cross-sectional study of 5141 children aged 9–11 years was conducted in 12 countries. Height and weight were obtained using standardized methods. Time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), sedentary and sleeping were objectively measured using 24-h, waist-worn accelerometer (Actigraph GT3X+) monitored for 7 days. Birth weight and other factors (regions, parental education, maternal history of gestational diabetes, children age, gender, breast feeding, gestational age, unhealthy diet scores and healthy diet scores) were collected by parental and children’s questionnaires. Multilevel modeling was used to account for the nested nature of the data.
RESULTS: The overall prevalence of obesity (BMI z-score>+2 s.d.) was 15.4% for boys and 10.0% for girls. There was a positive association between birth weight and BMI z-scores. The multivariable-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of childhood obesity were significantly higher among children whose birth weights were 3500–3999 g (OR 1.45; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.10–1.92), and >4000 g (OR 2.08; 95% CI: 1.47–2.93), compared with the reference group (2500–2999 g). The positive association between birth weight and the odds of childhood obesity was seen in girls, whereas a U-shaped association appeared in boys.
CONCLUSIONS: High levels of birth weight, defined as birth weight greater than or equal to3500 g, were associated with increased odds of obesity among 9–11-year-old children in 12 countries. However, sex differences in the association between birth weight and the risk of obesity need to be considered when planning interventions to reduce childhood obesity.