Background: An inverse association between birthweight and later blood pressure has been found in many studies in singletons. Twin studies have been used to examine whether genetic factors or family environment could account for this association.
Methods: A systematic review identified 10 studies covering 3901 twin pairs. Meta-analysis of regression coefficients for the association between birthweight and systolic blood pressure was carried out for unpaired versus paired associations and for paired associations in dizygotic versus monozygotic pairs.
Results: After adjustment for current weight or body mass index (BMI), the difference in systolic blood pressure per kg birthweight was -2.0 (95% CI: -3.2, -0.8) mmHg in the unpaired analysis and -0.4 (95% CI: -1.5, 0.7) mmHg in the paired analysis in the same subjects. In the paired analysis by zygosity, in all twins the coefficients were -0.7 (95% CI: -2.3, 0.8) mmHg in dizygotic pairs and -0.8 (95% CI: -2.1, 0.4) mmHg in monozygotic pairs, but in studies which included zygosity tests the coefficients were -1.0 (95% CI: -3.3, 1.6) mmHg in dizygotic pairs and -0.4 (95% CI: -1.9, 1.3) mmHg in monozygotic pairs.
Conclusions: The attenuation of the regression coefficient in the paired analysis provides support for the possibility that factors shared by twins contribute to the association between birthweight and blood pressure in singletons. Comparison of paired analysis in monozygotic and dizygotic pairs could not provide conclusive evidence for a role for genetic as opposed to shared environmental factors.