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Lifecourse Determinants of Health

The following people are in this group:

More about this group

The Lifecourse Determinants of Health theme is led by Dr Sam Leary.

Current research projects

Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)

ALSPAC (co-Director Professor Andy Ness) is a uniquely detailed biomedical resource that recruited women living in the Bristol area who were pregnant in 1991/1992, and follows up the health and development of their children.

Physical activity and childhood obesity

The major goals of this US National Institutes of Health (NIH) project are to collect objective measurements of physical activity in 16-year-old ALSPAC children (adding to the measurements taken at 12 and 14); investigate early life determinants of physical activity; and assess associations between physical activity and obesity.

Research findings

The modifiable early life determinants of offspring blood pressure

  • We have shown that in a contemporary, well-nourished population (ALSPAC), there was no association between offspring blood pressure and maternal diet (Leary et al. 2005 - PDF, 76kb), maternal age (Roberts et al. 2005), and maternal smoking (Leary et al. 2006 – PDF, 231kb) in pregnancy.
  • We have also shown, using a systematic review, that there was little empirical evidence that modifiable maternal exposure programmes offspring blood pressure (Brion et al. 2008).

Determinants and associates of physical activity in children

We have shown that in a contemporary population (ALSPAC), using objective (accelerometer) measurements on physical activity:

  • Levels of physical activity in children were low (Riddoch et al. 2007 – PDF, 386kb).
  • Physical activity was strongly associated with adiposity; reduction in fat mass was more strongly associated with time spent in moderate/vigorous physical activity than with total activity (Ness et al. 2007 – PDF, 207.5kb).
  • Higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower blood pressure, and the total activity appeared to be more important than the intensity (Leary et al. 2008 – PDF, 231.6kb).
  • Few factors in early life predicted physical activity (Mattocks et al. 2008).
  • Higher levels of physical activity, in particular activity of moderate to higher intensities, were prospectively associated with lower levels of fat mass in early adolescence (Riddoch et al. 2009 – PDF, 140kb).
  • Higher male-typical behaviour in early childhood was associated with higher physical activity in early adolescence, particularly in boys (Mattocks et al. 2010).

The early life determinants of childhood obesity

We have shown that in a contemporary population (ALSPAC), using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) measurements of body composition:

  • Birthweight and ponderal index were positively associated with offspring lean mass, but only ponderal index was associated with fat:lean ratio (Rogers et al. 2006 – PDF, 214kb).
  • Parental smoking during pregnancy was associated with offspring fat and lean mass; the similarity of association for mothers and partners suggest this may represent confounding (Leary et al. 2006 – PDF, 78.4kb).
  • There were no substantial differences in mother-daughter and father-son associations of body mass index and obesity (Leary et al. 2010).
  • 34% of children who were overweight at age 7 became obese by age 13; the adjusted odds ratio of progression to obesity at age 13 was 18 (Reilly et al. 2011).

Oral and facial phenotype measures in ALSPAC

Based on questionnaire and clinic data, we have shown that:

  • Maternal dental care was not associated with birth outcomes or language development; dental x-rays were not associated with birthweight measured continuously but were associated with slightly increased odds of having a term, low-birthweight baby (Daniels et al. 2007).
  • The majority of children had non-nutritive sucking habits until 24 months of age and dummy-sucking habits had the most profound influence on the anterior and posterior occlusions of the children (Duncan et al. 2008).
  • Differences in facial morphology can be accurately quantified and visualised using three dimensional imaging (Toma et al. 2008).
  • There was accurate reproducibility of facial soft tissue landmarks by different examiners on 3D laser-scanned facial image (Toma et al. 2009).
  • There appeared to be a weak association between both weight and length at birth and the risk of caries in childhood (Kay et al. 2010).
  • There was an association between time to first tooth eruption and the number of teeth present in children at one year of age, and a number of loci in the human genome (Pillas et al. 2010 – PDF, 251kb).