There is adequate evidence that growth during the perinatal period is linked to the risk of several adult onset diseases, and recent findings indicate that the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system is involved in prenatal growth, as reflected in birthweight. However, whether major components of the IGF system are involved in the immediate post-natal growth has not been studied. Maternal questionnaires were completed, and laboratory measurements of several variables, including IGF-I, IGF-II and IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), were made for a total of 331 apparently healthy full-term newborns, from whom routine blood samples were taken during the first 5 days of their life. Birthweight and weight at the time of bleeding were among the recorded variables, and the difference divided by the age in days of the newborn was considered as reflecting immediate postnatal growth velocity.
Immediate postnatal growth velocity was strongly positively associated with IGF-I. The squared adjusted correlation coefficient was 0.29 when IGF-I was incorporated in the model predicting postnatal growth velocity but was only 0.08 when IGF-I was excluded. In contrast, IGF-II and IGFBP-3 had no effect on postnatal growth velocity. It thus appears that IGF-I underlies growth during the immediate postnatal period. To the extent that perinatal growth may affect adult onset diseases, the findings of this study suggest that the action of IGF-I during the immediate postnatal period may represent a process of major importance.