Aim: To determine the relationship of birth weight to later glucose and insulin metabolism.
Methods: Systematic review of the published literature. Data sources were Medline and Embase. Included studies were papers reporting the relationship of birth weight with a measure of glucose or insulin metabolism after 1 year of age, including the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM). Three reviewers abstracted information from each paper according to specified criteria.
Results: Forty-eight papers fulfilled the criteria for inclusion, mostly of adults in developed countries. Most studies reported an inverse relationship between birth weight and fasting plasma glucose concentrations (15 of 25 papers), fasting plasma insulin concentrations (20 of 26), plasma glucose concentrations 2 h after a glucose load (20 of 25), the prevalence of Type 2 DM (13 of 16), measures of insulin resistance (17 of 22), and measures of insulin secretion (16 of 24). The predominance of these inverse relationships and the demonstration in a minority of studies of other directions of the relationships could not generally be explained by differences between studies in the sex, age, or current size of the subjects. However, the relationship of birth weight with insulin secretion was inconsistent in studies of adults.
Conclusions: The published literature shows that, generally, people who were light at birth have an adverse profile of later glucose and insulin metabolism. This is related to higher insulin resistance, but the relationship to insulin secretion in adults is less clear.