Associations between fetal size, maternal α-tocopherol and childhood asthma

Stephen W Turner, Doris Campbell, Norman Smith, Leone C A Craig, Geraldine McNeill, Sarah H Forbes, Paul J Harbour, Anthony Seaton, Peter J Helms, Graham S Devereux

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79 Citations (Scopus)


Background The origins of respiratory disease might be traced back to exposures during fetal life. The aim of the present study was to explore whether there was a relationship between fetal size and respiratory outcomes at 5 years of age in the context of fetal exposure to vitamin E.

Methods A longitudinal birth cohort study was recruited (n=1924). Antenatal ultrasound scan results were identified and the following recorded: crown–rump length (CRL) in the first trimester; femur length (FL) and biparietal diameter (BPD) in the second trimester. Maternal plasma α-tocopherol (vitamin E) was measured at the time of the first trimester scan. At 5 years, wheeze and asthma symptoms were reported by questionnaire, and spirometry was measured.

Results CRL, spirometry and questionnaire data at 5 years were available for 835, 579 and 1145 individuals, respectively. There were positive associations between CRL and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1; 5 ml increase in FEV1 per mm CRL, p=0.001, n=283), forced vital capacity (FVC; 6 ml increase in FVC per mm CRL, p=0.001) and forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% of FVC (FEF25–75; 0.008 ml/s increase in FEF25–75 per mm CRL, p=0.023), and inverse relationships with CRL and current wheeze (OR 0.59 per CRL quartile, p=0.026, n=547) and asthma (OR 0.55 per CRL quartile p=0.011). CRL was positively associated with maternal plasma α-tocopherol (p=0.002).

Conclusions These findings support the concept of very early fetal programming of respiratory disease. Maternal vitamin E status may be one determinant for growth of the fetus and fetal lungs during early pregnancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-397
Number of pages7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2010


  • anthropometry
  • asthma
  • birth weight
  • child, preschool
  • cohort studies
  • crown-rump length
  • female
  • fetal development
  • forced expiratory volume
  • humans
  • hypersensitivity, immediate
  • infant, newborn
  • longitudinal studies
  • pregnancy
  • prenatal exposure delayed effects
  • prenatal nutritional physiological phenomena
  • respiratory sounds
  • ultrasonography, prenatal
  • vital capacity
  • alpha-tocopherol


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