Weight at birth determines future health: study

July 25th, 2008 - 2:46 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 25 (IANS) Low weight at birth may lead to increased risk of heart disease later in life, according to a study by British researchers. The study by a team of researchers from the Southampton University found that blood vessel conditions that have been linked to poor health later in life can be spotted within a few years of birth in boys that are born small, BBC news reported.

Researchers found that eight-year-olds who were smaller at birth were more likely to have vascular resistance, a property of blood vessels that makes it harder for the blood to be pumped through, the European Heart Journal reported.

While vascular resistance does not cause an immediate problem for a child, there is some suggestion that higher levels, particularly if sustained after a stressful event, might increase the chance of blood pressure problems in adulthood.

Although all the 140 children in the study were in the “normal” range of birth weights, boys at the lower end of the scale were more likely to have higher vascular resistance than those born bigger.

However, no such problem was seen in low birth weight girls.

“The sex differences in these relationships were striking and may eventually lead to a better understanding of why men and women tend to develop high blood pressure and heart or vascular disease at different times in their lives,” said Alexander Jones, who led the project.

“Future studies will focus more on childhood in an effort to better understand the processes that lead to disease and to seek to reverse them before it is too late to do anything about it,” he added.

Earlier research had linked small size at birth to heart disease and diabetes later in life.

Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin from Imperial College London, said the findings supported large-scale studies, including one carried out by her own team that had established the link between birth size and later disease.

“That is beyond doubt now, in my view. There is plenty of evidence that chronic diseases start to develop pre-natally, or at least have their roots in pre-natal life,” she said.

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