Dr Mireille Toledano & Dr Muireann Coen from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health, paper published in BMC Medicine on how urine of pregnant women could be used to predict fetal growth & birth weight.

Dr Mireille Toledano, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology & Dr Muireann Coen, Lecturer in Metabonomics and Biochemical Toxicology, Imperial College London, both from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health have "Maternal urinary metabolic signatures of fetal growth and associated clinical and environmental factors in the INMA study" paper published in BIOMED CENTRAL Medicine.

The urine of pregnant women could be used to help identify lifestyle interventions that help maintain a healthy birth weight for their baby according to the paper. Abnormal fetal growth and birth weight are well-established risk factors for chronic diseases later in life, including the development of type-2 diabetes and obesity. 

Dr Mireille Toledano said, said: "We used a technique called NMR spectroscopy to identify, for the first time, a panel of 10 urinary metabolites in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy that were associated with greater fetal growth and increased birth weight. These metabolites included steroid hormones and important biological building blocks called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)."

Dr Muireann Coen added, added: "We found that a 50% increase in the mother's level of individual BCAAs equated to a 1-2.4% increase in birth weight, or 5-11 grams. When we made comparisons with the lifestyle and environmental exposures of the women in our study we found that the variability between BCAA profiles of individual mothers could be partially explained by levels of physical activity, vitamin D, coffee consumption and smoking exposure, suggesting them to be potential areas of intervention to promote a healthy birth weight."