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Keywords:

  • intergenerational influences;
  • dual burden;
  • child adiposity;
  • stunting;
  • middle income countries;
  • Latin America

ABSTRACT

The co-existence of very short stature due to poor chronic environment in early life and obesity is becoming a public health concern in rapidly transitioning populations with high levels of poverty. Individuals who have very short stature seem to be at an increased risk of obesity in times of relative caloric abundance. Increasing evidence shows that an individual is influenced by exposures in previous generations. This study assesses whether maternal poor early life environment predicts her child's adiposity using cross sectional design on Maya schoolchildren aged 7–9 and their mothers (n = 57 pairs). We compared maternal chronic early life environment (stature) with her child's adiposity (body mass index [BMI] z-score, waist circumference z-score, and percentage body fat) using multiple linear regression, controlling for the child's own environmental exposures (household sanitation and maternal parity). The research was performed in the south of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, a low socioeconomic urban area in an upper middle income country. The Maya mothers were very short, with a mean stature of 147 cm. The children had fairly high adiposity levels, with BMI and waist circumference z-scores above the reference median. Maternal stature did not significantly predict any child adiposity indicator. There does not appear to be an intergenerational component of maternal early life chronic under-nutrition on her child's obesity risk within this free living population living in poverty. These results suggest that the co-existence of very short stature and obesity appears to be primarily due to exposures and experiences within a generation rather than across generations. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:627–634, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.