Validation and application of objective measures of obesity and physical activity : studies in pregnant and non-pregnant adults and in infants
Abstract: Background Excess adipose tissue and low physical activity are two major determinants for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Understanding these relationships requires accurate and precise measures of body composition and physical activity, and most existing observational studies lack such measures. Paper I to III in this thesis addresses the validity of measures of physical activity and abdominal adipose mass. In paper IV and V, we explore the relationships between obesity and physical activity on metabolic health in non-pregnant and pregnant women and their offspring.Methods and Results Two hundred men and women representative of the Northern Sweden EPIC cohort were recruited for Paper I. A questionnaire on physical activity (PAQ) was validated against objectively measured physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE). A categorical physical activity index (Cambridge index) calculated from PAQ showed strongest correlation with PAEE (r=0.33 p<0.05). In Paper II, abdominal adiposity were assessed in 29 adult men and women using anthropometric measurements, dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and ultrasound and were compared to computed tomography (CT). Waist circumference showed the highest correlation with CT-assessed visceral (r=0.85, p<0.0001) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (r=0.86, p<0.0001). Adipose thickness was best assessed with ultrasound. In Paper III, the validity of a wrist-worn triaxial accelerometer was assessed in 32 pregnant and 74 non-pregnant women using double-labeled water method (DLW) as the criterion measure. The output from the accelerometer explained 24% (p <0.001) of the variation in PAEE in non-pregnant and 11% (p<0.05) in the pregnant women. In Paper IV, 35 pregnant and 73 non-pregnant women underwent a 75g oral glucose tolerance test and habitual energy expenditure and physical activity was assessed objectively. Total physical activity was inversely associated with early insulin response in both pregnant (r=-0.47, p=0.007) and non-pregnant (r=-0.36, p=0.004) women. In, Paper V, 32 women and their offspring (n=33) were studied 4 months post-partum. Body composition was quantified using DXA in the women and air-displacement plethysmography in the infants. Mid-pregnancy weight gain was significantly associated with infant fat mass (r=0.41, p=0.022), whereas late-pregnancy weight gain associated to infant fat-free mass (r=0.37, p=0.04).Conclusion This work describes new methods as well as conventional anthropometric estimates and a questionnaire, that provide relatively strong estimates of body composition and physical activity which could be used in larger studies. Pregnant women were shown to have more sedentary behavior than non-pregnant but physical activity appeared to have equal effect on glucose homeostasis in both groups, which may help guide lifestyle interventions in pregnancy. The impact of weight gain during the different trimesters seems to differentially affect the offspring’s body composition in early infancy, which might give us clues to when different aspects of fetal development and growth occur and how modifiable lifestyle behaviors might be intervened upon to improve long-term health.
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