Rxivist logo

Epigenetic gestational age and trajectories of weight and height during childhood: a prospective cohort study

By Harold D Bright, Laura D Howe, Jasmine N Khouja, Andrew J Simpkin, Matthew Suderman, Linda M O’Keeffe

Posted 04 Apr 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/599738 (published DOI: 10.1186/s13148-019-0761-7)

Background: Differences between an individual's estimated epigenetic gestational age (EGA) and their actual gestational age (GA) are defined as gestational age acceleration (GAA). GAA is associated with increased birthweight and birth length. Whether these associations persist through childhood is yet to be investigated. Methods: We examined the association between GAA and trajectories of height and weight from birth to 10 years (n=785) in a British birth cohort study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). EGA of participants was estimated using DNA methylation data from cord blood using a recently-developed prediction model. GA of participants was gathered in ALSPAC from clinical records and was measured from last menstrual period (LMP) for most participants. GAA of participants, measured in weeks, was calculated as the residuals from a regression model of EGA on actual GA. Height and weight were obtained from several sources including birth records, research clinics, routine child health clinics, links to health visitor records and parent-reported measures from questionnaires. Analyses were performed using linear spline multilevel models and adjusted for maternal age, maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, maternal smoking during pregnancy and maternal education. Results: In adjusted analyses, offspring with a one-week greater GAA were born on average 0.14 kg heavier (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.09, 0.19) and 0.55 cm taller (95% CI 0.33, 0.78) at birth. These differences in weight persisted up to approximately age 9 months but thereafter began to attenuate and reduce in magnitude. From age 5 years onwards, the association between GAA and weight reversed such that GAA was associated with lower weight and this association strengthened with age (mean difference at age 10 years -0.60 kg (95% CI, -1.19, -0.01)). Differences in height persisted only up to age 9 months (mean difference at 9 months 0.15 cm, (95% CI -0.09, 0.39)). From age 9 months to age 10 years, offspring with a one-week greater GAA were of comparable height to those with no GAA (mean difference at age 10 years -0.07 cm, (95% CI -0.64, 0.50)). Conclusions: Gestational age acceleration is associated with increased birth weight and length and these differences persist to age 9 months. From 5 years onwards, the association of GAA and weight reverses such that by age 10 years greater GAA is associated with lower childhood weight. Further work is required to examine whether the weight effects of GAA strengthen further through adolescence and into early adulthood.

Download data

  • Downloaded 206 times
  • Download rankings, all-time:
    • Site-wide: 77,800 out of 101,349
    • In genomics: 5,448 out of 6,281
  • Year to date:
    • Site-wide: 79,475 out of 101,349
  • Since beginning of last month:
    • Site-wide: 90,009 out of 101,349

Altmetric data

Downloads over time

Distribution of downloads per paper, site-wide


Sign up for the Rxivist weekly newsletter! (Click here for more details.)


  • 20 Oct 2020: Support for sorting preprints using Twitter activity has been removed, at least temporarily, until a new source of social media activity data becomes available.
  • 18 Dec 2019: We're pleased to announce PanLingua, a new tool that enables you to search for machine-translated bioRxiv preprints using more than 100 different languages.
  • 21 May 2019: PLOS Biology has published a community page about Rxivist.org and its design.
  • 10 May 2019: The paper analyzing the Rxivist dataset has been published at eLife.
  • 1 Mar 2019: We now have summary statistics about bioRxiv downloads and submissions.
  • 8 Feb 2019: Data from Altmetric is now available on the Rxivist details page for every preprint. Look for the "donut" under the download metrics.
  • 30 Jan 2019: preLights has featured the Rxivist preprint and written about our findings.
  • 22 Jan 2019: Nature just published an article about Rxivist and our data.
  • 13 Jan 2019: The Rxivist preprint is live!