Published online October 5 ahead of print in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), the study examined data collected between 2004 and 2006 on a representative sample of 518 Spanish women in their first trimester of pregnancy. Among babies whose mothers were normal weight prepregnancy, those babies whose mothers had DDE levels in the top 75 percent of exposure were twice as likely to grow rapidly during their first 6 months as babies whose mothers had the lowest DDE levels. Infants in the top 50 percent of exposure were three times more likely to have high BMI scores at 14 months. The researchers did not observe an association between DDE and weight for babies of mothers who were overweight before pregnancy.
Two other human studies have shown an association between prenatal DDE exposure and obesity later in life.“However, this analysis suggests, to our knowledge, for the first time, that fetal DDE exposure may promote rapid growth starting in the immediate postnatal period,” said lead author and epidemiologist Michelle A. Mendez, of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, and her colleagues.
Laboratory studies have suggested that “exposure to chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties might promote shifts in appetite regulation, but may also promote obesity through metabolic changes,” Mendez said.