Associations of Linear Growth and Relative Weight Gain in Early Life with Human Capital at 30 Years of Age

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Abstract

Objective

To assess the associations of birthweight, nutritional status and growth in childhood with IQ, years of schooling, and monthly income at 30 years of age.

Study design

In 1982, the 5 maternity hospitals in Pelotas, Brazil, were visited daily and 5914 live births were identified. At 30 years of age, 3701 subjects were interviewed. IQ, years of schooling, and income were measured.

Results

On average, their IQ was 98 points, they had 11.4 years of schooling, and the mean income was 1593 reais. After controlling for several confounders, birthweight and attained weight and length/height for age at 2 and 4 years of age were associated positively with IQ, years of years of schooling, and income, except for the association between length at 2 years of age and income. Conditional growth analyses were used to disentangle linear growth from relative weight gain. Conditional length at 2 years of age ≥1 SD score above the expected value, compared with ≥1 SD below the expected, was associated with an increase in IQ (4.28 points; 95% CI, 2.66-5.90), years of schooling (1.58 years; 95% CI, 1.08-2.08), and monthly income (303 Brazilian reais; 95% CI, 44-563). Relative weight gain, above what would be expected from linear growth, was not associated with the outcomes.

Conclusion

In a middle-income setting, promotion of linear growth in the first 1000 days of life is likely to increase adult IQ, years of schooling, and income. Weight gain in excess of what is expected from linear growth does not seem to improve human capital.

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