Weight at birth tied to heart disease and diabetes risk in adulthood

April 1, 2009

Lower weight at birth may increase inflammatory processes in adulthood, which are associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Both the fetal and infancy periods are sensitive, critical stages of growth and development. Studies have previously suggested babies with lower weight at birth are at a higher risk for developing but until now, there has been little understanding to explain why. This study suggests an association between lower weight at birth and inflammation in adulthood may provide that explanation.

Inflammation is a normal physiologic response of the body, and serves as a host defense which provides protective response to infection or tissue injury. If the source of infection or injury is not repressed, low-grade inflammation can persist and may promote the development of heart disease or .

Earlier studies have found that babies born small for gestational age have weak immune systems, but at six years old have more white than babies born at a normal weight. White blood cells are cells of the immune system that defend the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials. These findings suggest that age might amplify the association between early growth and inflammatory processes.

In this study, researchers followed 5,619 children born in 1966 and followed them up until they reached adulthood. As compared to children with 'normal' weight in the first year of life, researchers observed that babies born relatively smaller and gained the least weight during infancy had a higher number of white blood cells, an indicator of inflammation, in adulthood.

"Our findings suggest that the link between poorer growth early in life and these adult chronic diseases may involve inflammation as a common underlying factor," said Dr. Dexter Canoy, MD, PhD, of the University of Manchester in the UK and lead researcher of the study. "Ensuring appropriate growth during this narrow 'window' in early development may confer lifelong benefits to health."

Source: The Endocrine Society

Explore further: 'Bigger the baby, the better' axiom is incorrect

Related Stories

'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 ...

Caesarean babies more likely to develop diabetes

August 26, 2008

Babies delivered by Caesarean section have a 20 per cent higher risk than normal deliveries of developing the most common type of diabetes in childhood, according to a study led by Queen's University Belfast.

Pediatric obesity may alter thyroid function and structure

December 3, 2008

In addition to its strong associations with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, pediatric obesity may induce alterations in thyroid function and structure, according to a new study accepted for publication ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

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 ...

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.