Size at birth and growth trajectories to young adulthood


  • Linda S. Adair

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Nutrition, Schools of Public Health and Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    • Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB No. 8120, University Square, 123 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524, USA
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Few studies in developing countries follow growth trajectories from birth to adulthood. Such studies are important because size at birth and postnatal growth affect risk of chronic disease in adulthood. This study examines the inter-relationships of maternal factors during pregnancy, infant birth weight and length, early postnatal growth, and young adult height, weight, BMI, and skinfold thicknesses, with particular attention to patterns of growth associated with increased chronic disease risk. Women were recruited in pregnancy, and offspring were followed from birth to age 21 in the community-based Cebu (Philippines) Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey. Birth weight and length are independently, positively associated with height, BMI and sum of skinfolds in young adult males and females, and inversely associated with the subscapular to triceps ratio in males only. The effects of size at birth on adult size were modified by birth order, and remained significant after adjusting for maternal nutritional status, socioeconomic status at birth and throughout the growth period, and maturation. Early postnatal growth was strongly influenced by BMI at birth, with rapid early infant weight gain associated with thinness. The growth pattern of the at-risk group most often associated with increased risk of chronic disease (small at birth, relatively heavy as an adult), was characterized by more rapid growth in the first 4 postnatal months. The high level of inter-relatedness of maternal nutrition in pregnancy, prenatal growth, and postnatal growth emphasizes the need to consider the full growth trajectory in studies of developmental origins of adult disease.Am. J. Hum. Biol. 19:327–337, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.