'Bigger the baby, the better' axiom is incorrect

May 17, 2007

Contrary to popular belief and alerts by the World Health Organization, new research by the George Institute for International Health indicates that the importance of the reported relationship between birth weight and coronary heart disease has been overestimated. Although low birth weight is considered by the WHO to be a risk factor for heart disease, the findings published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, question the widely held belief that smaller babies are more susceptible to heart disease later in life.

Dr Rachel Huxley, lead author of the paper and Acting Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle at The George Institute said, "Although there was support for a small association between birth weight and an individual's future risk of heart disease, the relationship is not as strong as earlier studies have suggested. Any effects that birth weight may have on heart disease are dwarfed by other risk factors operating in adult life, such as smoking and obesity."

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for 38% of all deaths in 2002 and claiming the lives of more than one in three adults*. The study suggests that one kilogram higher birth weight is associated with a 10-20% reduced risk of heart disease later in life, compared to smaller sized babies. However, researchers believe that interventions during the pregnancy period would have little effect on increasing the size of a baby.

"It has been suggested that strategies to increase early fetal growth could reduce the number of deaths from heart disease. However, interventions during pregnancy could really only increase birth weight by as much as 100g, which would translate in to a 1-2% lower risk of heart disease." Dr Huxley added.

"By comparison, interventions that focus on getting individuals to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising and eating sensibly would substantially lower the risk of heart disease and are more achievable than strategies aimed at increasing birth weight."

Source: Research Australia

Explore further: Is your fear of radiation irrational?

Related Stories

Is your fear of radiation irrational?

July 14, 2015

Bad Gastein in the Austrian Alps. It's 10am on a Wednesday in early March, cold and snowy – but not in the entrance to the main gallery of what was once a gold mine. Togged out in swimming trunks, flip-flops and a bath ...

Major step for implantable drug-delivery device

June 29, 2015

An implantable, microchip-based device may soon replace the injections and pills now needed to treat chronic diseases: Earlier this month, MIT spinout Microchips Biotech partnered with a pharmaceutical giant to commercialize ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.