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.
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.
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.
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.