Relationships between birthweight and biomarkers of chronic disease in childhood: Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study 1987–2001


Susan Sayers, Menzies School of Health Research, PO Box 41096, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia.


Reports of relationships between lower birthweight and later chronic diseases are mainly from populations with low rates of low birthweight (LBW) and growth-restricted births. A prospective study of an Australian Aboriginal birth cohort with a mean birthweight of 3050 g (SD 630), 16% LBW and 28% fetal growth restriction was used to examine the relationships between birthweight and selected biomarkers of chronic adult disease.

At a mean age of 11.4 years (range 8.9–14), the mean weight was 35.7 kg (SD 11.8) and the mean height was 143.8 cm (SD 10.6). Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2000 growth references, weight and height-for-age z-scores were −0.8 (SD 1.4) and −0.5 (SD 1.07) respectively and using World Health Organisation criteria, 19% of children were classified as underweight (weight for age Z-score <2.0). The relationships between birthweight and blood pressure (n = 475), total cholesterol (n = 461), Apolipoprotein A-1 (n = 343), Apolipoprotein B (n = 390), respiratory function tests (n = 427), kidney size determined by ultrasound (n = 446), urinary albumin/creatinine ratio (n = 420) and fasting triglycerides (n = 281), insulin (n = 272) and glucose (n = 279) were examined using regression models adjusted for sex, gestational age, current age and puberty status. In this population with high rates of fetal growth restriction at birth and an excess of under-nutrition at age 11 years we found that birthweight had a negative relationship with child blood pressure only, while current child weight was positively related to blood pressure, total cholesterol, Apolipoprotein B, respiratory function tests, kidney size, and fasting triglycerides, insulin and glucose.