Early catch-up growth and subsequent overweight are suggested to be associated with later cardiovascular diseases and later type II diabetes. However, the impact of early catch-up growth and childhood overweight on the development of asthma has been less studied, particularly in children born with very low birth weight (VLBW). A birth cohort of 74 VLBW children (birth weight < or = 1500 g) was followed from birth and investigated on asthma at 12 yr of age. Early rapid weight gain was in one way defined as an increase of weight > or =1 standard deviation score (SDS) at 6 months of corrected postnatal age. Current overweight was defined by body mass index (BMI) exceeding 21.2 and 21.7 kg/m(2), respectively, for boys and girls at 12 yr of age. Current asthma was diagnosed by a pediatrician, according to asthma ever in combination with a positive response to hypertonic saline bronchial provocation test and/or wheeze at physical examination at 12 yr old. Being overweight at 12 yr of age was associated with an increased risk for current asthma in the VLBW children [crude odds ratio (OR): 5.5, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3-22.2]. After adjustment for early weight gain and neonatal risk, the OR of overweight increased nearly three times (adjusted OR: 15.3, 95% CI: 2.5-90.6). Early rapid weight gain seemed to be inversely associated with current asthma (adjusted OR: 0.49 for an increase of weight equal to 1 SDS, 95% CI: 0.23-1.02, p = 0.06). In addition, early rapid weight gain was inversely associated with the magnitude of bronchial responsiveness at 12 yr (coefficient -1.15, p < 0.01). There was a strong and positive association between overweight and asthma at 12 yr of age in the VLBW children. This strong association had been reduced by early rapid weight gain, possibly via the reduction of bronchial responsiveness.