Children of pregnant smokers have lower HDL cholesterol

June 30, 2011

Children whose mothers smoke while pregnant have lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol than children of nonsmokers, an Australian study reveals.

Children whose mothers smoke while pregnant have lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol than children of nonsmokers, an Australian study reveals.

The community-based longitudinal study, published online June 21 in the European Heart Journal , examined data from 405 healthy 8-year-olds born between 1997 and 1999. Researchers at the University of Sydney collected information prospectively using a questionnaire on maternal smoking during pregnancy and postnatal exposure of the children to environmental tobacco smoke. They measured the children’s blood pressure, carotid intima-media thickness (using ultrasound scans), and, in 328 children (81%) who consented to blood withdrawal, lipoproteins.

Children of mothers who smoked had significantly lower HDL cholesterol: 1.32 mmol/L compared with 1.50 mmol/L for children of mothers who didn’t smoke during pregnancy. Neither smoking in pregnancy nor childhood exposure to environmental tobacco smoke was associated with changes in artery wall thickness.

“Although the effect of this degree of HDL cholesterol lowering in young children on the extent of atherosclerosis is uncertain, population studies in adults suggest that smaller changes in HDL cholesterol result in significant differences in prevalence of coronary heart disease, after adjustment for the presence of other risk factors,” the authors write.

Children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy also had higher triglycerides (1.36 mmol/L compared with 1.20 mmol/L in children of nonsmokers) and higher systolic blood pressure(102.1 mmHg compared with 99.9 mmHg). Higher blood pressure was not significantly associated with smoking after adjustment for maternal passive smoking, postnatal environmental tobacco smoke exposure, gender, breast feeding duration, physical inactivity, and adiposity.