Objective: To examine whether parity or gravidity contributes to the development of the metabolic syndrome (MS).
Methods: The first phase of the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study recruited 7352 women and 3065 men aged 50-93 years in 2003-4. Data on the number of live births and pregnancies, other reproduction-associated factors and socioeconomic and lifestyles factors were collected by standardized interview. The MS components were determined through physical examination and measurement of fasting blood samples. MS was identified if waist circumference was >or= 90 cm for men or >or= 80 cm for women, plus any two of: (a) raised triglyceride (TG) level (1.7 mmol/l) or specific treatment for this lipid abnormality; (b) reduced high density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol (< 1.03 mmol/l in males or < 1.29 mmol/l in females) or specific treatment for this lipid abnormality; (c) raised blood pressure (BP, systolic BP >or= 130 mmHg or diastolic BP >or= 85 mmHg) or hypertension therapy; and (d) raised fasting glucose (>or= 5.6 mmol/l) or previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
Results: Before adjustment for potential confounders, we found associations between the number of births and lifestyle and socioeconomic factors in both sexes. However, in women, but not in men, body mass index (BMI), waist-hip ratio, triglyceride and glucose were positively associated with the number of birth after adjusting for a range of potential confounders. The age-adjusted prevalence of the MS increased with the number of births and pregnancies in women, but the gradient for birth was steeper than that for pregnancies [odds ratio change per birth 1.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11-1.22, P < 0.001; odds ratio change per pregnancy 1.11, 95% CI 1.06-1.16, P < 0.001], although attenuating the association adjustment did not affect the significance of these findings. There was no association in men with regard to the number of their partners' live births given the same analysis and similar shared living background with the women.
Conclusion: Higher parity or gravidity was associated with a consistent increase in the risk of MS in Chinese women. As the association persisted after adjustment for lifestyle factors and there was no association between the risk of MS and the number of births associated with the partners of the males, the association in women may represent a biological response to pregnancy.