Offspring Birth Weight and Cardiovascular Risk in Parents—A Population-based HUNT 2 Study

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Low birth weight is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in later life. The fetal insulin hypothesis suggests that shared genetic factors partly explain this association. If fetal genes predispose to both low birth weight and cardiovascular disease in adulthood, fathers of offspring with low birth weight should display an unfavorable profile of cardiovascular risk factors. To study this, the authors linked data on more than 14,000 parents, collected from the second Health Study of Nord Trøndelag County, Norway (HUNT 2, 1995–1997), to offspring data from the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry (1967–2005). Linear regression was used to study associations of offspring birth weight for gestational age with the parents’ body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, glucose, and serum lipids. All analyses were adjusted for shared environment by means of the socioeconomic measures, lifestyle, and cardiovascular risk factors of the partner. The authors found that low offspring birth weight for gestational age was associated with increased paternal blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, and unfavorable levels of glucose and lipids. For mothers, associations similar to those for fathers were found for blood pressure, whereas associations in the opposite direction were found for glucose, lipids, and body mass index. The paternal findings strengthen the genetic hypothesis.

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