Heavyweight babies more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis

June 30th, 2008 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 30 (IANS) Female babies with higher birth weight are twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as adults than their average contemporaries, says a new study. The results support the foetal origin of disease theory, which argues that certain conditions and diseases in adult life are programmed by factors during pregnancy.

Diabetes, coronary heart disease, and high blood pressure for example have been linked to low birth weight.

The findings are based on a survey of over 87,000 US women between 1976 and 2002, who were aged between 30 and 55 at the beginning of the study.

Every two years, the women were quizzed about their health, lifestyle and family illnesses. In 1992, they were asked to provide information on their birth weight.

During the study period, 619 women were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis for the first time, reports Eurekalert.

Women who weighed more than 4.54 kg at birth were twice as likely to develop the auto-immune disease as those who weighed between the average of 3.2 to 3.85 kg at birth.

The results held true even after taking into account factors likely to influence the baby’s birth weight.

These included socio-economic status, parental smoking, maternal diabetes, age at first period, use of oral contraceptives, breastfeeding and weight.

There is no obvious biological explanation for the findings, say the authors. But adults with rheumatoid arthritis have abnormal hormone regulation, and it is thought that this process may be triggered while in the womb.

Researchers believe that the risk of rheumatoid arthritis could be lessened during pregnancy and altering the mother’s diet could open up an avenue for prevention.

The findings have been published online ahead of print in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

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