Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the effects of early growth on the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome in normal-weight individuals.
Methods: We examined 2003 subjects born in Helsinki, Finland, between 1934 and 1944, focusing on 588 individuals who were normal weight (body mass index [BMI] less than or equal to 25 kg/m(2)). These subjects had a median of seven measurements of height and weight from birth to 2 years, and eight measurements from 2 to 11 years of age. The metabolic syndrome was defined according to the 2005 criteria of the International Diabetes Federation.
Results: Individuals with the metabolic syndrome were heavier, had higher mean BMI and higher body fat percentages than those without the syndrome. No differences were seen in body size at birth and at 2 years but, by the age of 7 years, those men who later developed the metabolic syndrome were thinner (P=0.01). Changes in BMI during infancy were predictive of the syndrome, with an OR of 0.57 (95% CI: 0.36-0.90) per one S.D. increase in BMI from birth to 2 years. In women, these associations paralleled those in men, but did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusion: Among normal-weight men, those who developed the metabolic syndrome in adulthood had smaller gains in BMI during infancy and were thinner at age 7 years. These results support findings that early growth may play an important role in the development of the metabolic syndrome.