, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 624–631 | Cite as

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

  • R. Valdez
  • M. A. Athens
  • G. H. Thompson
  • B. S. Bradshaw
  • M. P. Stern


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.

Key words

Infant birthweight insulin resistance diabetes truncal obesity chronic disease 



insulin resistance syndrome


non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus


high-density lipoprotein


analysis of covariance


socioeconomic status


waist-to-hip circumference ratio


subscapular-to-triceps skinfold ratio


body mass index


blood pressure


fasting insulin

2-h I

2-h post-load insulin


high density lipoprotein cholesterol


fasting glucose

2-h G

2-h post-load glucose




low density lipoprotein cholesterol


total cholesterol


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Valdez
    • 1
  • M. A. Athens
    • 1
  • G. H. Thompson
    • 2
  • B. S. Bradshaw
    • 2
  • M. P. Stern
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medicine Clinical EpidemiologyUniversity of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.School of Public Health, San Antonio ProgramUniversity of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonHoustonUSA

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