Low Birth Weight Linked to Obesity, Diabetes, and Hypertension Later in Life

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By : Suvarna Sheth

A new study links low birth weight to obesity, diabetes, and hypertension later in life, but evidence for the associations is limited for the Chinese population.

How was the Study Conducted?

In the study, researchers analyzed data from two population‐based prospective cohort studies: the Shanghai Women’s Health Study and the Shanghai Men’s Health Study, to examine the associations between low birth rate and the risk of obesity and chronic diseases.

The analysis involved 11,515 men and 13,569 women.

Birth weight was self‐reported at baseline and measurements of the body were made at the time of study enrollment.

Type 2 diabetes diagnoses were self‐reported, whereas hypertension diagnoses were based on self‐report and blood pressure measurements at baseline and follow‐up surveys.

What were the Results?

After analyzing birth weight for 11,515 men and 13,569 women, non‐linear associations were observed for birth weight with baseline body mass index, waist circumference, waist: hip ratio, and waist to height ratio.

It was found the low birth weight was linked with lower BMI, smaller waist circumference, and larger waist to hip ration and waist to height ratio.

An excess risk of Type 2 diabetes was observed for low birth weight versus normal birth weight.

The risk of the diseases decreased as birth weight increased. Further increases in birth weight did not convey additional benefits.

“The associations were observed even after adjusting for most socioeconomic and lifestyle factors in adulthood, such as educational level, per capita income, smoking, alcohol consumption and regular exercise,” says senior author, Dr. Wanghong Xu, of the Fudan University School of Public Health in China.

“These results suggest an important role of maternal and child health in the prevention of non-communicable diseases in China and other low- and middle-income countries,” he adds.

The results suggest that low birth weight, an index of poor intrauterine nutrition, may affect health risks later in life in the Chinese population.

The study can be found in the Journal of Diabetes.

Original reporting republished with permission from Wiley Newsroom.