CONTEXT: Maternal obesity is associated with high plasma triglyceride, poor vascular function, and an increased risk for pregnancy complications. In normal-weight pregnant women, higher triglyceride is associated with increased small, dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
HYPOTHESIS: In obese pregnancy, increased plasma triglyceride concentrations result in triglyceride enrichment of very low-density lipoprotein-1 particles and formation of small dense LDL via lipoprotein lipase.
DESIGN: Women (n = 55) of body mass index of 18-46 kg/m(2) were sampled longitudinally at 12, 26, and 35 weeks' gestation and 4 months postnatally.
SETTING: Women were recruited at hospital antenatal appointments, and study visits were in a clinical research suite.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Plasma concentrations of lipids, triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, lipoprotein lipase mass, estradiol, steroid hormone binding globulin, insulin, glucose, leptin, and adiponectin were determined. RESULTS: Obese women commenced pregnancy with higher plasma triglyceride, reached the same maximum, and then returned to higher postnatal levels than normal-weight women. Estradiol response to pregnancy (trimester 1-3 incremental area under the curve) was positively associated with plasma triglyceride response (r(2) adjusted 25%, P <.001). In the third trimester, the proportion of small, dense LDL was 2-fold higher in obese women than normal-weight women [mean (SD) 40.7 (18.8) vs 21.9 (10.9)%, P =.014], and 35% of obese, 14% of overweight, and none of the normal-weight women displayed an atherogenic LDL subfraction phenotype. The small, dense LDL mass response to pregnancy was inversely associated with adiponectin response (17%, P =.013).
CONCLUSIONS: Maternal obesity is associated with an atherogenic LDL subfraction phenotype and may provide a mechanistic link to poor vascular function and adverse pregnancy outcome.