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Size at birth and lipoprotein concentrations in adulthood: two prospective studies in Latin American cities
  1. Hugo Amigo1,
  2. Patricia Bustos1,
  3. Maria Elena Alvarado2,
  4. Marco Barbieri3,
  5. Heloisa Bettiol3,
  6. Antônio Augusto M da Silva4,
  7. Roberto Jorge Rona5
  1. 1Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
  2. 2School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brasil
  4. 4Department of Public Health, Federal University of Maranhão, São Luís, Brasil
  5. 5King's College London, Department of Psychological Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Hugo Amigo, Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Independencia 1027, Santiago, Chile; hamigo{at}


Background The relationship between birth weight and plasma lipoproteins is inconsistent.

Aims To assess the association between birth weight and (1) body mass index (BMI) at birth and (2) lipoproteins in young adults, and also to explore the possible effect of current obesity as a possible effect modifier.

Methods Two prospective studies based on representative samples of subjects born in the 1970s were carried out in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil (n=2063) and Limache, Chile (n=999). The surveys were carried out between 2001 and 2004.

Results Mean birth weights were 3267 g and 3177 g and mean adult BMIs were 24.3 kg/m2 and 25.8 kg/m2 in the Brazilian and Chilean samples, respectively. Total adult cholesterol was 4.57 mmol/l in Chileans, 0.26 mmol/l higher than in Brazilians (p<0.001). The main finding was an interaction between adult obesity (BMI 30 or over) and birth weight and also BMI at birth and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol. A birth-weight increment of 1 kg was associated with a decrease in total cholesterol (−0.374 mmol/l, 95% CI −0.567 to −0.181) and LDL (−0.304 mmol/l (−0.479 to −0.129) in obese participants only. These associations persisted after allowing for gestational age in a smaller sample. This finding was consistent in separate analyses in the Brazilian and Chilean samples. No associations were found in relation to high-density lipoprotein and triglyceride concentrations.

Conclusion The results suggest that those who were of low birth weight and are obese are more likely to have high cholesterol and LDL concentrations. Thus preventing obesity may be especially rewarding in subjects with a low birth weight.

  • Birth weight
  • blood lipids
  • obesity
  • Latin American countries
  • lipids
  • low birth weight
  • obesity EPI

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  • Funding Funding for the Chilean study was provided by the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FONDECYT), grant 1010572 (address: Bernarda Morin 551 Providencia Santiago, Chile). The study in Brazil was supported by Fundaçao de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Sâo Paulo (FAPESP), grant 2000/09508-7 (address: R Pio XI, 1500, Alto da Lapa, CEP 05468-901 São Paulo/SP, Brasil).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The studies were approved by the ethics committees of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sao Paulo in Ribeirão Preto.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.