The intrauterine environment is a strong determinant of glucose tolerance during the neonatal period, even in prematurity

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Sep;87(9):4252-6. doi: 10.1210/jc.2001-011961.


The aim of this study was to determine the contribution of birth weight and gestational age to glucose tolerance in premature neonates. The study group consisted of 100 premature and/or small-for-gestational age infants. Anthropometric measurements were performed both at birth and at the time of a standardized milk feed carried out at 19.6 +/- 12.1 d (range, 1-65 d) after birth. Fasting and postprandial glucose and insulin levels were measured. Birth weight, as a proxy mirror of the intrauterine environment, was found to influence the glucose concentration following a standardized milk feed (beta = -0.46; P = 0.01 for birth weight z-score with 60-min glucose level), whereas gestational age did not. Small-for-gestational age neonates had higher 60-min insulin levels than appropriate-for-gestational age neonates (115.4 +/- 9.5 vs. 68.4 +/- 14.2; P < 0.05) despite similar glucose levels. Neonates born of mothers who were on antihypertensive treatment were smaller and had a higher insulin secretory response than neonates from normotensive mothers. Postnatal growth velocity (kilograms per day) correlated with birth weight (beta = -0.65; P < 0.0001) and insulin resistance (beta = -0.31; P = 0.0004), independently of each other. This study shows that glucose tolerance of the neonate is determined by weight attained at birth irrespective of gestational age and that maternal blood pressure may influence insulin sensitivity of the newborn. Furthermore, catch-up growth in neonates is determined by birth weight and insulin sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Body Constitution
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Tolerance Test*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age / physiology*
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Pregnancy
  • Uterus / physiology*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Glucose