Objective: To study the relationship between intrauterine growth and the metabolic syndrome, particularly fasting serum lipids in young adulthood.
Methods: Seven hundred and forty-four young adults aged 26-31 years participated in the ARYA birth cohort. Birth characteristics were available from charts kept by the Municipal Health Service, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Adult medical history and lifestyle information were assessed by questionnaires. Adult anthropometry, blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides were measured, and LDL-cholesterol was calculated.
Results: Subjects in the lower tertiles of birth weight (1250-3209 and 3210-3649 g) had higher risks for metabolic syndrome than those in the highest birth weight tertile (3650-5500 g): odds ratio, 1.8; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0-3.5 and 1.4; 0.7-2.7, respectively; p for trend = 0.064, adjusted for gender, cardiovascular disease family history and current education. Birth weight was inversely related to systolic blood pressure (linear regression coefficient, -1.9 mmHg/kg birth weight; 95% CI -3.4 to -0.3) and to (log) triglycerides in mmol/L (-0.03/kg birth weight; 95% CI -0.06 to -0.01), adjusted for gender, current body mass index and current education. Birth weight showed inverse relations to diastolic blood pressure, serum glucose, total and LDL cholesterol and positive relations to waist circumference and HDL cholesterol levels, although not statistically significant. Birth length and ponderal index were not related to the metabolic syndrome or lipid profiles.
Conclusion: Lower birth weight indicates a higher risk for metabolic syndrome in young adults, particularly through higher serum triglycerides and higher systolic blood pressure.