, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 624-631

Birthweight and adult health outcomes in a biethnic population in the USA

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Summary

Recent data indicate that low-birthweight adults are at a higher risk than their high-birthweight peers of developing ischaemic heart disease or a cluster of conditions known as the IRS, which includes dyslipidaemias, hypertension, unfavourable body fat distribution and NIDDM. Thus far these observations have been limited to Caucasians from the United Kingdom. We extended these observations to a broader segment of the general population by studying the association of birthweight and adult health outcomes in a biethnic population of the United States. We divided a group of 564 young adult Mexican-American and non-Hispanic white men and women participants of the San Antonio Heart Study into tertiles of birthweight and compared metabolic, anthropometric, haemodynamic, and demographic characteristics across these tertile categories. Additionally, we studied birthweight as a predictor of the clustering of diseases associated with the IRS, defined as any two or more of the following conditions: hypertension, NIDDM or impaired glucose tolerance, dyslipidaemia. Normotensive, non-diabetic individuals whose birthweight was in the lowest tertile had significantly higher levels of fasting serum insulin and a more truncal fat deposition pattern than individuals whose birthweight was in the highest tertile, independently of sex, ethnicity, and current socioeconomic status. Also, the odds of expressing the IRS increased 1.72 times (95% confidence interval: 1.16–2.55) for each tertile decrease in birthweight. These findings were independent of sex, ethnicity, and current levels of socioeconomic status or obesity. In conclusion, low birthweight could be a major independent risk factor for the development of adult chronic conditions commonly associated with insulin resistance in the general population.