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Animal and human data demonstrate independent relationships between fetal growth, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function (HPA-A) and adult cardiometabolic outcomes. While the association between fetal growth and adult cardiometabolic outcomes is well-established, the role of the HPA-A in these relationships is unclear. This study aims to determine whether HPA-A function mediates or moderates this relationship. Approximately 2900 pregnant women were recruited between 1989-1991 in the Raine Study. Detailed anthropometric data was collected at birth (per cent optimal birthweight [POBW]). The Trier Social Stress Test was administered to the offspring (Generation 2; Gen2) at 18 years; HPA-A responses were determined (reactive responders [RR], anticipatory responders [AR] and non-responders [NR]). Cardiometabolic parameters (BMI, systolic BP [sBP] and LDL cholesterol) were measured at 20 years. Regression modelling demonstrated linear associations between POBW and BMI and sBP; quadratic associations were observed for LDL cholesterol. For every 10% increase in POBW, there was a 0.54 unit increase in BMI (standard error [SE] 0.15) and a 0.65 unit decrease in sBP (SE 0.34). The interaction between participant’s fetal growth and HPA-A phenotype was strongest for sBP in young adulthood. Interactions for BMI and LDL-C were non-significant. Decomposition of the total effect revealed no causal evidence of mediation or moderation.
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