A high birth weight is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity




The association between low birth weight and adult disease is well known. Less is known on long-term effects of high birth weight.


This study aims to investigate whether a high birth weight increases risk for adult metabolic disease.


Swedish term single births, 1973–1982 (n = 759 999), were studied to age 27.5–37.5 years using Swedish national registers. Hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated in relation to birth weight for type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension and dyslipidaemia.


Men with birth weights between 2 and 3 standard deviation score (SDS) had a 1.9-fold increased risk (HR 1.91, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.25–2.90) of type 2 diabetes, whereas those with birth weights above 3 SDS had a 5.4-fold increased risk (HR 5.44, 95% CI 2.70–10.96) compared to men with birth weights between −2 and 2 SDS. The corresponding HRs for women were 0.60 (95% CI 0.40–0.91) and 1.71 (95% CI 0.85–3.43) for birth weights 2–3 SDS and >3 SDS, respectively. Men with birth weights between 2 and 3 SDS had a 1.5-fold increased risk (HR 1.47, 95% CI 1.22–1.77) of obesity. The corresponding risk for women was 1.3-fold increased (HR 1.32, 95% CI 1.19–1.46). For men and women with birth weights above 3 SDS, the risks of adult obesity were higher, HR 2.46 (95% CI 1.63–3.71) and HR 1.85 (95% CI 1.44–2.37), respectively.


A high birth weight, particularly very high, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in male young adults. The risk of obesity increases with increasing birth weight in both genders.