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Research Article

Earlier Mother's Age at Menarche Predicts Rapid Infancy Growth and Childhood Obesity

  • Ken K Ong mail,

    To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: ken.ong@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk

    Affiliations: Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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  • Kate Northstone,

    Affiliation: Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

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  • Jonathan CK Wells,

    Affiliation: Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom

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  • Carol Rubin,

    Affiliation: National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, United States of America

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  • Andy R Ness,

    Affiliation: Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

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  • Jean Golding,

    Affiliation: Department of Community Based Medicine, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

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  • David B Dunger

    Affiliation: Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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  • Published: April 24, 2007
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0040132

Reader Comments (2)

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Authors' Reply

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:09 GMT

Author: Ken Ong
Institution: Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge
E-mail: ken.ong@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk
Additional Authors: Kate Northstone, Jonathan CK Wells, Carol Rubin, Andy R Ness, Jean Golding, David B Dunger
Submitted Date: May 11, 2007
Published Date: May 11, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Indeed, we have previously reported an association between breast-feeding and slower rates of infant weight gain in this study population, compared to infants who were fed formula milk (Ong et al. Pediatric Research 2002 Dec;52(6):863-7). Those findings are consistent with recent systematic reviews that breast-feeding is protective for childhood obesity.

Independent of the parent’s choice to breast or bottle feed, we have proposed that the infant may to some extent be able to self-regulate their intake. Our current analyses reflected this hypothesis by accounting for breast feeding status. These findings suggest that in both breast and formula-milk fed infants (equally) infant weight gain and subsequent childhood obesity risk are influenced by some factor passed on from the mother in relation to her age at menarche (mother’s age at first menstrual period).

In summary, while we whole-heartedly endorse breast-feeding to protect against childhood obesity, further research is needed to identify why some individuals are predisposed to faster infant weight gain and later obesity, whether they were breast-fed or not.

No competing interests declared.