Sociocultural characteristics, obesity and inflammatory biomarkers in Puerto Rican toddlers born in New York City



Srimathi Kannan, PhD, Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition College of Agricultural Sciences, Mail Code 4417, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, 1205 Lincoln Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA.

Tel.: +413 230 6847

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In the USA, Puerto Rican children have a higher prevalence of asthma than other Latino ethnicities, and acculturation is one of hypothesized reasons for this difference. We examined associations between sociocultural characteristics and serum leptin, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), and body mass index (BMI), and further, among hsCRP, leptin levels, BMI percentiles, and allergic sensitization in 2-year-old children.


IgE antibodies, leptin, and hsCRP concentrations were measured in serum from Puerto Rican toddlers (n = 143) born in New York City with a maternal history of allergy and/or asthma. Demographic and home characteristics questionnaires were administered to the mother, postpartum and two years later. Children's weight and height were measured to determine BMI percentiles.


More girls (60%) had leptin levels above the median compared with boys (37%) (p = 0.0063). Leptin was positively correlated with BMI (r = 0.25; p = 0.0042). Children in daycare were more likely to be obese (40% vs. 24% p < 0.06). Maternal birthplace was significantly associated with children's leptin but not with hsCRP. Leptin levels were lower for children whose mothers were born on the US mainland (GM = 2.5 ng/ml, 95% CI [2.2–2.7]) compared with those whose mothers were born in Puerto Rico or another country (GM = 3.2 ng/ml, 95% CI [2.2–3.9], t-test p = 0.01). Mothers born in another country were more likely than those born in the US mainland or Puerto Rico to have obese children (60% vs. 26% p < 0.02). Leptin, hsCRP, and BMI percentile were not associated with sensitization to any of the measured inhalant allergens or total IgE.


Even at a very young age, some acculturation factors were associated with biomarkers and anthropometric measures of obesity among this Puerto Rican pediatric population. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating the association of mother's birth place with child BMI and leptin as early as 24 months.