University of Oulu

Graversen, L., Howe, L. D., Sørensen, T. I. A., Sovio, U., Hohwü, L., Tilling, K., Laitinen, J., Taanila, A., Pouta, A., Järvelin, M-R., and Obel, C. ( 2017) Body mass index trajectories from 2 to 18 years – exploring differences between European cohorts. Pediatric Obesity, 12: 102– 109. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12115

Body mass index trajectories from 2 to 18 years : exploring differences between European cohorts

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Author: Graversen, L.1; Howe, L. D.2,3; Sørensen, T. I. A.2,4,5;
Organizations: 1Section for General Medical Practice, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
2MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
3School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
4Institute of Preventive Medicine, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospitals, Copenhagen, Denmark
5Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
6Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
7Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Imperial College, London, UK
8Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
9Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
10Unit of Primary Care, University Hospital of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
11National Institute of Health and Welfare, Oulu, Finland
12Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
13Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
14Center for Life Course Epidemiology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-07-30


Background: In recent decades, there has been an increase in the prevalence of childhood overweight in most high‐income countries. Within northern Europe, prevalence tends to be higher in the UK compared with the Scandinavian countries. We aimed to study differences in body mass index (BMI) trajectories between large cohorts of children from UK and Scandinavian populations.

Methods: We compared BMI trajectories in participants from the English Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children born in 1991–1993 (ALSPAC) (N = 6517), the Northern Finland Birth Cohorts born in 1966 (NFBC1966) (N = 3321) and 1986 (NFBC1986) (N = 4764), and the Danish Aarhus Birth Cohort born in 1990–1992 (ABC) (N = 1920). We used multilevel models to estimate BMI trajectories from 2 to 18 years. We explored whether cohort differences were explained by maternal BMI, height, education or smoking during pregnancy and whether differences were attributable to changes in the degree of skew in the BMI distribution.

Results: Differences in mean BMI between the cohorts were small but emerged early and persisted in most cases across childhood. Girls in ALSPAC had a higher BMI than all other cohorts throughout childhood, e.g. compared with the NFBC1986 BMI was 2.2–3.5% higher. For boys, the difference emerging over time (comparing the two NFBC’s) exceeded the differences across populations (comparing NFBC1986, ABC and ALSPAC). BMI distribution demonstrated increasing right skew with age.

Conclusion: Population‐level differences between cohorts were small, tended to emerge very early, persisted across childhood, and demonstrated an increase in the right‐hand tail of the BMI distribution.

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Series: Pediatric obesity
ISSN: 2047-6302
ISSN-E: 2047-6310
ISSN-L: 2047-6302
Volume: 12
Issue: 2
Pages: 102 - 109
DOI: 10.1111/ijpo.12115
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3123 Gynaecology and paediatrics
Funding: NFBC1966 received financial support from the Academy of Finland (104781, 120315, 129269, 1114194, 24300796); Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics and SALVE, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland; Biocenter Oulu, Finland; University of Oulu, Finland (75617, 24002054, 2400692); Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (50459, 50691, 50842, 2749, 2465); NHLBI grant 5R01HL087679-02 through the STAMPEED program (1RL1MH083268-01); NIH/NIMH (5R01MH63706:02); ENGAGE project and grant agreement HEALTH-F4-2007-(201413); EU FP7 EurHEALTHAgeing (277849); EU FP7 EurHealth Epi-Migrant (279143); European Regional Development Fund 537/2010 (24300936); and theMedical Research Council, UK (G0500539, G0600705, G1002319, PrevMetSyn/SALVE). NFBC1986 received financial support from the Academy of Finland (grants 175617, 173454, 24300269, 24300217); EU FP7- ENV-2008-1-226534; USA/NIH/NHLBI 1-R01-HL087679-01, RFP-RM-06-008; NorFA (50847); Thule Institute (50925), Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland (24301140); University of Oulu, Finland (24000692, 24500283). The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant no. 092731) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors, and L.D.H. will serve as guarantor for the contents of this paper. L.D.H. is supported by a UK Medical Research Fellowship (G1002375). L.D.H. and K. T. work in a unit that receives funding from the University of Bristol and the UK Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12013/5 and MC_UU_12013/9).
EU Grant Number: (226534) ARCRISK - Arctic Health Risks: Impacts on health in the Arctic and Europe owing to climate-induced changes in contaminant cycling
(279143) EPI-MIGRANT - Identification of epigenetic markers underlying increased risk of T2D in South Asians
(277849) EURHEALTHAGEING - European ResearcH on DevElopmentAL, BirtH and Genetic Determinants of Ageing
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 120315
Detailed Information: 120315 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
129269 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
114194 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2016 The Authors. Pediatric Obesity published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of World Obesity Federation. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided theoriginal work is properly cited.