Early-life residential green spaces and traffic exposure in association with young adult body composition: a longitudinal birth cohort study of twins

M.N.S. Figaroa, M. Gielen*, L. Casas, R.J.F. Loos, C. Derom, S. Weyers, T.S. Nawrot, M.P. Zeegers, E.M. Bijnens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BackgroundGlobally, the rapid increase of obesity is reaching alarming proportions. A new approach to reduce obesity and its comorbidities involves tackling the built environment. Environmental influences seem to play an important role, but the environmental influences in early life on adult body composition have not been thoroughly investigated. This study seeks to fill the research gap by examining early-life exposure to residential green spaces and traffic exposure in association with body composition among a population of young adult twins.MethodsAs part of the East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey (EFPTS) cohort, this study included 332 twins. Residential addresses of the mothers at time of birth of the twins were geocoded to determine residential green spaces and traffic exposure. To capture body composition, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), waist circumference, skinfold thickness, leptin levels, and fat percentage were measured at adult age. Linear mixed modelling analyses were conducted to investigate early-life environmental exposures in association with body composition, while accounting for potential confounders. In addition, moderator effects of zygosity/chorionicity, sex and socio-economic status were tested.ResultsEach interquartile range (IQR) increase in distance to highway was found associated with an increase of 1.2% in WHR (95%CI 0.2-2.2%). For landcover of green spaces, each IQR increase was associated with 0.8% increase in WHR (95%CI 0.4-1.3%), 1.4% increase in waist circumference (95%CI 0.5-2.2%), and 2.3% increase in body fat (95%CI 0.2-4.4%). Stratified analyses by zygosity/chorionicity type indicated that in monozygotic monochorionic twins, each IQR increase in land cover of green spaces was associated with 1.3% increase in WHR (95%CI 0.5-2.1%). In monozygotic dichorionic twins, each IQR increase in land cover of green spaces was associated with 1.4% increase in waist-circumference (95%CI 0.6-2.2%).ConclusionsThe built environment in which mothers reside during pregnancy might play a role on body composition among young adult twins. Our study revealed that based on zygosity/chorionicity type differential effects of prenatal exposure to green spaces on body composition at adult age might exist.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2023


  • Green spaces
  • Traffic exposure
  • Body composition
  • Twins
  • DOHaD
  • RISK

Cite this