Food and Behaviour Research

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Prepregnancy obesity is associated with cognitive outcomes in boys in a low-income, multiethnic birth cohort

Widen EM, Nichols AR, Kahn LG, Factor-Litvak P, Insel BJ, Hoepner L, Dube SM, Rauh V, Perera F, Rundle A (2019) BMC Pediatr.  2019 Dec; 19(1): 507. doi: 10.1186/s12887-019-1853-4. 

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Maternal obesity and high gestational weight gain (GWG) disproportionally affect low-income populations and may be associated with child neurodevelopment in a sex-specific manner. We examined sex-specific associations between prepregnancy BMI, GWG, and child neurodevelopment at age 7.


Data are from a prospective low-income cohort of African American and Dominican women (n = 368; 44.8% male offspring) enrolled during the second half of pregnancy from 1998 to 2006. Neurodevelopment was measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) at approximately child age 7. Linear regression estimated associations between prepregnancy BMI, GWG, and child outcomes, adjusting for race/ethnicity, marital status, gestational age at delivery, maternal education, maternal IQ and child age.


Overweight affected 23.9% of mothers and obesity affected 22.6%. At age 7, full-scale IQ was higher among girls (99.7 ± 11.6) compared to boys (96.9 ± 13.3). Among boys, but not girls, prepregnancy overweight and obesity were associated with lower full-scale IQ scores [overweight β: - 7.1, 95% CI: (- 12.1, - 2.0); obesity β: - 5.7, 95% CI: (- 10.7, - 0.7)]. GWG was not associated with full-scale IQ in either sex.


Prepregnancy overweight and obesity were associated with lower IQ among boys, but not girls, at 7 years. These findings are important considering overweight and obesity prevalence and the long-term implications of early cognitive development.