'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: Goat to be cloned to treat rare genetic disorder

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A challenge to the genetic interpretation of biology

Feb 19, 2014

A proposal for reformulating the foundations of biology, based on the 2nd law of thermodynamics and which is in sharp contrast to the prevailing genetic view, is published today in the Journal of the Royal ...

Ticks kill sheep

Nov 13, 2013

In some lamb herds, a mortality rate of 30 percent has been recorded, albeit, no predators have been involved in these losses. The situation is so serious that the sheep industry could be under threat. It ...

Recommended for you

Researchers transplant regenerated oesophagus

19 hours ago

Tissue engineering has been used to construct natural oesophagi, which in combination with bone marrow stem cells have been safely and effectively transplanted in rats. The study, published in Nature Communications, shows ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...