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Persistence of lower birth weight in second generation South Asian babies born in the United Kingdom
  1. B M Margetts,
  2. S Mohd Yusof,
  3. Z Al Dallal,
  4. A A Jackson
  1. Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr B M Margetts, Public Health Nutrition, Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK;


Objective: To assess differences in birth weight between all first and second generation South Asian babies born in Southampton, and trends since 1957.

Design: Retrospective, cohort study.

Setting: Birth records for babies born in Southampton from 1957 to 1996 were searched to identify all babies born of South Asian origin (including from the Indian subcontinent, East Africa, and elsewhere).

Main outcome measures: All information recorded in the birth record about the mother and baby was extracted.

Results: 2395 full term (>37 weeks; mean birth weight 3110; 95%CI 3092 to 3129) singleton births were identified. Detailed analysis was restricted to mothers either born in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh (1435)) or United Kingdom (283). Mean birth weight and % low birth weight (<2500 g) were 3133 g (95%CI 3108 to 3157) and 7.5%, for first generation babies and 3046 g (2992 to 3099) and 11.7% for second generation babies. There was no trend over time to increased average birth weight in either first or second generation babies. Adjusting for other factors that were statistically significantly related to birth weight (gender, gestational age, mother’s age, maternal weight at 15 weeks, parity, and mother’s ethnic group) did not alter the trends.

Conclusions: For that group in the UK who derive from the Indian subcontinent, average birth weight is significantly less than the national average. There has not been any increase in the average birth weight over the past 40 years, and the birth weight of babies of women who were born in the UK are no greater. The persistence of lower than desirable birth weight may result long term in higher than average rates of diabetes and heart disease in these groups.

  • birth weight
  • ethnicity

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  • Funding: Safiah Mohd Yusof was supported by a PhD studentship from the Malaysia Government and Zuhair Al Dallal received support from the Bahrain Government.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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