Early-life nutritional status and metabolic syndrome: gender-specific associations from a cross-sectional analysis of the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil)

Public Health Nutr. 2018 Jun;21(8):1546-1553. doi: 10.1017/S1368980017004256. Epub 2018 Feb 19.


Objective: In the present study we investigated gender-specific associations of low birth weight (LBW) and shorter relative leg length with metabolic syndrome (MetS) after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and health-related behaviours. We also investigated whether these associations are independent of age at menarche and BMI at 20 years old.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis.

Subjects: Baseline data from 12 602 participants (35-74 years) of the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil), 2008-2010.

Setting: MetS was defined according to the revised National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines. LBW (<2·5 kg) and age- and sex-standardized relative leg length (high, medium and low) were the explanatory variables studied. The strength of the associations between the explanatory variables and MetS was estimated by Poisson regression with robust variance.

Results: MetS prevalence was 34·2 %; it was more prevalent in men (36·8 %) than in women (32·2 %). In multivariate analysis, LBW was associated (prevalence ratio; 95 % CI) with MetS only in women (1·28; 1·24, 1·45). Shorter leg length was associated with MetS in both men (1·21; 1·09, 1·35 and 1·46; 1·29, 1·65 for low and medium lengths, respectively) and women (1·12; 1·00, 1·25 and 1·40; 1·22, 1·59 for low and medium lengths, respectively). Additional adjustments for age at menarche and BMI at 20 years old did not change the associations.

Conclusions: Poor nutritional status as estimated by LBW and lower leg length in childhood was associated with a higher prevalence of MetS, although LBW was a significant factor only among women.

Keywords: Birth weight; Early life; Gender; Leg length; Metabolic syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Birth Weight / physiology*
  • Body Size / physiology
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status / physiology*