• small for gestational age;
  • intrauterine growth restriction;
  • bone mass;
  • BMC;
  • BMD


Poor growth in early life is associated with numerous adverse outcomes later in life. In 123 adolescents 16–18 yr of age, the previous findings of a positive relation between size in early life and later bone mass was confirmed. These associations were mediated by the current height and weight, but it was not confirmed that alterations of the GH–IGF axis cause this.

Introduction: Numerous studies have found associations between low birth weight and disease later in life, including decreased bone mass.

Materials and Methods: A longitudinal cohort of 16- to 19-year-old adolescents (n = 123) with data on third trimester fetal growth velocity (FGV) was assessed by serial ultrasound measurements, birth weight (BW), and weight at 1 yr. A follow-up study included DXA scan, anthropometric measurements, and measurements of the growth hormone (GH) –IGF-I axis in a representative subpopulation (n = 30).

Results: BW and weight at 1 yr were positively associated with whole body BMC (p = 0.02 and p < 0.0001, respectively), lumbar spine BMC (p = 0.001 and p = 0.03, respectively), and lumbar spine BMD (p = 0.04). After correction for adolescent height and weight, no association remained significant. There was no relation between IGF-I and IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) levels in adolescence and size in early life or bone mass. In the subpopulation, GH secretion (median, 2.58 versus 4.05), GH pulse mass (median, 10.7 versus 19.4 mU/liter), and total GH (median, 74.9 versus 108.8 mU/liter/12 h) were decreased in the small for gestational age (SGA) group compared with the appropriate for gestational age (AGA) group; this did not reach statistical significance. Likewise, there were no differences in IGF-I, IGF-II, and IGFBP-1, −2, and −3 levels between the SGA and AGA groups. A statistically significant positive association between FGV and adolescent IGF-II was found (B = 199.9, p = 0.006). Significant negative associations between GH measurement and BMC, as well as BMD, were found (B = −0.008, p = 0.005 and B = −0.008, p = 0.006, respectively).

Conclusions: This study confirms the previous findings of a positive relation between size in early life and later BMC, an association apparently independent of the distal part of the GH/IGF-I axis. However, this association may be mediated mainly by postnatal growth determining size of the skeletal envelope rather than an effect of fetal programming on bone mass per se.