University of Oulu

Satu M Kumpulainen, Kati Heinonen, Nina Kaseva, Sture Andersson, Aulikki Lano, Rebecca M Reynolds, Dieter Wolke, Eero Kajantie, Johan G Eriksson, Katri Räikkönen, Maternal early pregnancy body mass index and diurnal salivary cortisol in young adult offspring, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 104, 2019, Pages 89-99, ISSN 0306-4530,

Maternal early pregnancy body mass index and diurnal salivary cortisol in young adult offspring

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Author: Kumpulainen, Satu M1; Heinonen, Kati1; Kaseva, Nina2;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
3Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Finland
4University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
5Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, UK
6National Institute for Health and Welfare, Oulu, Finland
7PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Finland
8Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Finland
9Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-06-30


Background: Maternal early pregnancy overweight (body mass index [BMI] 25.0–29.9 kg/m²) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m²) are associated with mental and physical health adversities in the offspring. Prenatal programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been put forward as one of the mechanisms that may play pathophysiological role. However, evidence linking maternal overweight and obesity with offspring HPA-axis activity is scarce. We studied if maternal early pregnancy BMI is associated with diurnal salivary cortisol, a marker of HPA-axis activity, in young adult offspring.

Methods: At a mean age of 25.3 (standard deviation [SD) = 0.6) years, 653 Arvo Ylppö Longitudinal Study participants collected saliva samples for cortisol analyses, at awakening, 15 and 30 min thereafter, 10:30AM, 12:00PM, 5:30PM and at bedtime. Maternal BMI was calculated from weight and height verified by a measurement in the first antenatal clinic visit before 12 weeks of gestation derived from healthcare records.

Results: Per each one kg/m² higher maternal early pregnancy BMI offspring diurnal average salivary cortisol was −1.4% (95% CI:−2.6, −0.2, pFDR = 0.033) lower, at awakening it was −2.4% (95% CI:−4.0, −0.7, pFDR = 0.025) lower and the morning average salivary cortisol was −2.0% (95% CI:−3.4, −0.5, pFDR =0.017) lower. These associations were independent of the offspring’s own young adulthood BMI, and other important covariates.

Conclusion: Our findings show that young adult offspring born to mothers with higher early pregnancy BMI show lower average levels of diurnal cortisol, especially in the morning. Whether these findings reflect prenatal programming of the offspring HPA-axis activity warrants further investigation.

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Series: Psychoneuroendocrinology
ISSN: 0306-4530
ISSN-E: 1873-3360
ISSN-L: 0306-4530
Volume: 104
Pages: 89 - 99
DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.02.013
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine
Funding: Childhood follow-up was financially supported by the Bundesministerium für Forschung und Technik (Federal Goverment of Germany, Ministry of Science and Technology) program grants PKE 4 and JUG 14 (FKZ’s 0706224, 0706564, and 01EP9504) to Drs. Klaus Riegel, Dieter Wolke, and Barbara Ohrt. Dr Aulikki Lano was supported by and Finnish Foundation for Pediatric Research. Adulthood follow-up was financially supported by the Academy of Finland program grants to Drs. Johan G Eriksson, Eero Kajantie and Katri Raikkonen. Dr Nina Kaseva was supported by Finska Läkaresällskapet, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation and Stiftelsen Dorothea Olivia, Karl Walter och Jarl Walter Perklens. Dr. Eero Kajantie was also supported by grants from European Commission (Horizon 2020 Award SC1–2016-RTD-733280 RECAP), Sigrid Jusélius Foundation, Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Finnish Foundation for Pediatric Research, Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, Juho Vainio Foundation, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation. Dr. Johan Eriksson was supported by grant from Samfundet Folkhälsan. Dr. Sture Andersson was supported by grants from Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation and Finska Läkaresällskapet and Dr. Kati Heinonen by the Academy of Finland post-doctoral grant. Dr. Rebecca Reynolds acknowledges the support of Tommys and the British Heart Foundation. The work by Ms. Satu Kumpulainen was supported by University of Helsinki Research Funds and Doctoral program of Psychology, Learning and Communication.
Copyright information: © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license