Early growth and coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes: findings from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (HBCS)

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Dec;94(6 Suppl):1799S-1802S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.000638. Epub 2011 May 25.


A slow rate of intrauterine growth is a major risk factor for several common noncommunicable diseases, which include the following: coronary heart disease (CHD), hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Likewise, growth patterns in infancy and childhood have been identified as important factors linked to the pathogenesis of these disorders. In this overview, patterns of growth associated with CHD, type 2 diabetes, and related metabolic traits in adult life are presented on the basis of findings from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (HBCS) 1934-1944. Later risk of CHD was associated with small body size at birth and during infancy, followed by an increase in body size later in childhood. This pattern of growth has been associated with dyslipidemia in later life, which offers an explanation for the observed findings. Type 2 diabetes and CHD share several risk factors. The early growth of persons who later develop type 2 diabetes includes a small body size at birth as well as a small body size during infancy. An early age at adiposity rebound was associated with a markedly increased risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood. The patterns of growth associated with type 2 diabetes are also associated with alterations in body composition, which predisposes to insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. The presented findings suggest that to be able to understand the pathogenesis of several noncommunicable diseases, the diseases need to be studied from a life-course perspective, and prenatal and childhood growth as well as adult characteristics need to be taken into account.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Coronary Disease / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Gain