Prenatal cocaine exposure and childhood obesity at nine years

Linda L. LaGasse, Ronnesia B. Gaskins, Henrietta S. Bada, Seetha Shankaran, Jing Liu, Barry M. Lester, Charles R. Bauer, Rosemary D. Higgins, Abhik Das, Mary Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Little is known about the association between prenatal cocaine exposure and obesity. We tested whether prenatal cocaine exposure increases the likelihood of obesity in 561 9-year-old term children from the Maternal Lifestyle Study (MLS). Overall, 21.6% of children met criterion for obesity (body mass index [BMI]. ≥ 95th percentile, age and sex-specific). While there was no overall cocaine effect on obesity, multivariate logistic analysis revealed that children exposed to cocaine but not alcohol were 4 times more likely to be obese (OR 4.11, CI 2.04-9.76) than children not exposed to either drug. No increase in obesity prevalence was found in children exposed to alcohol but not cocaine (OR 1.08, CI 59-1.93) or both (OR 1.21, CI 0.66-2.22). Alcohol exposure may attenuate the effect of cocaine exposure on obesity. Increased obesity associated with cocaine but not alcohol exposure was first observed at 7. years. BMI was also elevated from 3 to 9. years in children exposed to cocaine but not alcohol, due to increasing weight but normal height. Prenatal exposure to cocaine may alter the neuroendocrine system and metabolic processes resulting in increased weight gain and childhood obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-197
Number of pages10
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is part of the MLS which was conducted with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) through cooperative agreements with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) . Participating institutions, grant awards, investigators and key research personnel include: Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University , U10-DA-024119 , U10-HD-27904 , N01-2-3159 (Barry M. Lester, PhD., Cynthia Miller-Loncar PhD, Linda LaGasse, PhD., and Jean Twomey, PhD); Wayne State University , U10-DA-024117 , U10-HD-21385 (Seetha Shankaran, MD, Eunice Woldt, MSN, and Jay Ann Nelson, BSN); University of Tennessee , U10-DA-024118 , U10-HD-21415 (Henrietta S. Bada, MD, Toni Whitaker, MD, Charlotte Bursi, MSSW, Leann Pollard BA and Jonathan Rowland, BS); University of Miami , U10-DA-024118 , U10-HD-21397 (Charles R. Bauer, MD, Ann L. Graziotti ARNP and Susan Gautier, MS); RTI International , U01-HD-36790 (W. Kenneth Poole, PhD, Abhik Das, PhD, Jane Hammond, PhD, Debra Fleischmann BS); National Institute on Drug Abuse (Nicolette Borek PhD and Vincent L. Smeriglio PhD); National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Rosemary D. Higgins MD). The MLS is funded as a cooperative agreement and as such the funding sponsors (NIDA, NICHD, NIMH) have input into the design and conduct of the study.


  • Childhood obesity
  • Fetal origins
  • Growth
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Prenatal cocaine exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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