Prenatal maternal infection tied to disordered eating in adolescence

  • Solmi F & al.
  • Psychol Med
  • 2 May 2019

  • curated by Sarfaroj Khan
  • UK Clinical Digest
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Takeaway

  • Exposure to prenatal maternal infection is associated with an increased risk for eating disorders in adolescence.
  • This association could be explained by in utero processes leading to impaired neurodevelopment or altered immunological profiles.

Why this matters

  • Findings add to the existing evidence linking prenatal infections with a range of psychopathological outcomes in the offspring, by showing that this effect may be related to the aetiology of eating disorders.

Study design

  • 10,202 children exposed to self-reported maternal infection across the 3 trimesters of pregnancy were included using data from Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
  • Primary outcome: presence of any, monthly (less frequent) or weekly (frequent) eating disorders at age 14 and 16 years; weight and shape concerns score at age 14 years.
  • Funding: UCLH National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre.

Key results

  • Of 10,202 children, 4785 (46.9%) and 4111 (40.3%) had available outcome data at age 14 and 16 years, respectively.
  • After adjustment for confounders, exposed children were at an increased risk for frequent eating disorders at both age 14 (risk difference [RD], 0.009%; P=.0802) and 16 years (RD, 0.023%; P=.0068), though the evidence of an association was weak at age 14 years.
  • Risk for any eating disorder was higher in exposed children aged 16 years (RD, 0.030; P=.0101) but not in those aged 14 years.
  • No significant association was observed between prenatal infection and less frequent eating disorders in the exposed children aged 14 and 16 years.
  • The exposed children had greater weight and shape concerns score at age 14 years (mean difference, 0.16; P≤.01).

Limitations

  • Infections were self-reported by the mother.
  • Residual confounding.