Birth weight and subsequent risk of asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Heart Lung Circ. 2014 Jun;23(6):511-9. doi: 10.1016/j.hlc.2013.11.018. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


Background: Previous studies suggest that birth weight is related to later risk of asthma. However, few meta-analyses have investigated these associations. Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis with different classifications to further validate the relationship between birth weight and asthma.

Methods: PubMed (1990-2013), ScienceDirect (1990-2013), EMBASE(1990-2013),EBSCO (1990-2013) and Springer (1990-2013) were searched for articles. The following MeSH terms were used: "birth weight", "fetal growth retardation", "intrauterine growth restriction", "asthma", "wheezing".

Results: We included 18 studies with data from a total of over 90,000 children and adults. (1) Low birth weight (<2,500g) as compared with BW>2,500g and BW=2500-4000g was associated with increased risk of asthma (Children: OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.09-1.50, P<0.05; OR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.13-1.60, P<0.05, Adults: OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.12-1.39, P<0.05; OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.12-1.40, P<0.05). (2) High birth weight (>4,000g) was not associated with the risk of asthma when BW<4,000g and BW=2500-4000g were used as the reference.

Conclusions: These results suggest that low birth weight (<2,500g) is associated with increased risk of asthma both in children and adults and may serve as a mediator between prenatal influences and later disease risk; but high birth weight (>4,000g) was not associated with increased risk of asthma.

Keywords: Asthma; Birth weight; Foetal growth; Meta-analysis; Respiratory symptoms.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Birth Weight*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Risk Factors