Can birth weight predict offspring’s lung function in adult age? Evidence from two Swedish birth cohorts

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Background: Associations between birth weight (BW) and adult lung function have been inconsistent and limited to early adulthood. We aimed to study this association in two population-based cohorts and explore if BW, adjusted for gestational age, predicts adult lung function. We also tested adult lung function impairment according to the mis-match hypothesis—small babies growing big as adults. Methods: We included 3495 individuals (aged 46.4 ± 5.4 years) from the Malmo Preventive Project (MPP), Sweden, born between 1921 and 1949, and 1401 young to middle-aged individuals (aged 28.6 ± 6.7 years) from the Malmo Offspring Study (MOS) with complete data on BW and gestational age. Adult lung function (forced vital capacity [FVC], forced expiratory volume in one second [FEV1] and the FEV1/FVC-ratio) were analysed as level of impairment (z-score), using multiple linear and logistic regressions. Results: BW (z-score) did not predict adult lung function in MPP, whereas BW was a significant (p = 0.003) predictor of FEV1 following full adjustment in MOS. For every additional unit increase in BW, children were 0.77 (95% CI 0.65–0.92) times less likely to have impaired adult lung function (FEV1). Moreover, adults born with lower BW (< 3510 g) showed improved lung function (FEV1 and FEV1/FVC in MOS and MPP, respectively) if they achieved higher adult body weight. Conclusions: Adults born with lower birth weight, adjusted for gestational age, are more likely to have impaired lung function, seen in a younger birth cohort. Postnatal growth pattern may, however, compensate for low birth weight and contribute to better adult lung function.

TidskriftRespiratory Research
StatusPublished - 2022 dec.

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Lungmedicin och allergi


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