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Association between offspring birth weight and atherosclerosis in middle aged men and women: British Regional Heart Study
  1. D A Lawlor1,
  2. G Davey Smith1,
  3. P Whincup2,
  4. G Wannamethee3,
  5. O Papacosta3,
  6. S Dhanjil4,
  7. M Griffin4,
  8. A N Nicolaides4,5,
  9. S Ebrahim1
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Department of Public Health Sciences, St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, UK
  4. 4Division of Surgery, Anaesthetics and Intensive Care, Irvine Laboratory, Imperial College School of Medicine, St Mary’s Hospital, London, UK
  5. 5Department of Neurovascular Sciences, The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, Nicosia, Cyprus
  1. Correspondence to: 
 Dr D A Lawlor, Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK; 

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L ow birth weight is associated with cardiovascular disease in adulthood, but the mechanisms underlying these associations remain unclear.1 One possibility is that poor intra-uterine nutrition “programmes” adult disease.1 An alternative hypothesis is that specific polymorphisms with pleiotrophic effects result in both small birth size and cardiovascular disease risk.2 Epidemiological evidence for a genetic role in the association comes from the recent finding that offspring birth weight predicts parental cardiovascular disease risk.3,4 As an infant’s low birth weight cannot determine its own parents’ risk of cardiovascular disease through intrauterine programming, a plausible explanation for these trans-generational associations is that of a common genetic link. In this paper we investigate the associations between offspring birth weight and parental carotid intima media thickness, an indicator of pre-clinical disease.


Data were used from the Dewsbury and Maidstone cohort of the British Regional Heart Study. B-mode ultrasound measurements of carotid arteries, together with a detailed physical examination, blood tests, and research nurse interview were undertaken on 375 women and 425 men, aged 56–75 years. Full details of all measurements have been …

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  • Funding: This study was funded by the Stroke Association. The Department of Health and British Heart Foundation have provided funding for the British Regional Heart Study. The CDER Trust provided funding for the ultrasound equipment used in this study. DAL is funded by the Medical Research Council. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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