Aims/hypothesis: We studied fetal and childhood growth patterns that are associated with IGT and type 2 diabetes in adult life.
Methods: We examined clinically 2,003 subjects born in Helsinki between 1934 and 1944. They had on average 11 measurements of height and weight between birth and 2 years of age, and seven measurements between 2 and 11 years of age. Glucose tolerance in adult life was assessed by a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test.
Results: We identified 311 subjects with type 2 diabetes and 496 with IGT. Both IGT and type 2 diabetes were associated with low birthweight (p < 0.0001 adjusting for current BMI). The risk of these conditions was increased by low weight gain between birth and 2 years. A 1 SD increase in weight at 2 years was associated with an odds ratio for either type 2 diabetes or IGT of 0.76 (95% CI 0.69-0.84). This effect was greatest in people who had low birthweight. Low growth in the first 6 months after birth was a critical period for the development of insulin resistance in later life; other critical periods were associated with slow fetal growth and rapid increase in BMI between age 2 and 11 years.
Conclusions/interpretation: Low weight gain during infancy increases the risk of IGT and type 2 diabetes. The effect is greater in people who had low birthweight. The first 6 months after birth may be the most critical period for growth, in relation to development of glucose intolerance.