The positive association of infant weight gain with adulthood body mass index has strengthened over time in the Fels Longitudinal Study

Background Infant weight gain is positively related to adulthood body mass index (BMI), but it is unknown whether or not this association is stronger for individuals born during (compared to before) the obesity epidemic. Objectives To examine how the infant weight gain–adulthood BMI association might have changed across successive birth year cohorts spanning most of the 20th century. Methods The sample comprised 346 participants in the Fels Longitudinal Study. Confounder-adjusted regression models were used to test the associations of conditional weight-for-length Z-score (WLZ), capturing weight change between ages 0-2 years, with young adulthood BMI and blood pressure, including cohort (1933-1949 (N=137), 1950-1969 (N=108), 1970-1997 (N=101)) as an effect modifier. Results Conditional WLZ was positively related to adulthood BMI, but there was significant effect modification by birth year cohort such that the association was over two times stronger in the 1970-1997 cohort (β 2.31; 95% confidence interval 1.59, 3.03) compared to the 1933-1949 (0.98; 0.31, 1.65) and 1950-1969 (0.87; 0.21, 1.54) cohorts. A similar pattern was found for systolic blood pressure. Conclusions The infant weight gain–adulthood BMI association was over two times stronger among a cohort born during the obesity epidemic era compared to cohorts born earlier in the 20th century.