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J Intern Med. 2008 Sep;264(3):205-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2008.01974.x. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

Familial (shared environmental and genetic) factors and the foetal origins of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes: a review of the literature.

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  • 1Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. niklas.bergvall@ki.se


Several researchers have argued that observed associations between birth weight and cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes, may be confounded by familial (shared environmental and genetic) factors. However, most studies have found that shared environmental factors, including socio-economic factors, do not influence the foetal origins of adult diseases. Results from two twin studies suggest that genetic factors may be of importance for the association between birth weight and risks of coronary heart disease, but findings from intergenerational studies are not consistent with genetic confounding. More studies have assessed the importance of genetic factors with respect to risk factors of coronary heart, including raised blood pressure and lipid levels. Recent findings suggest that the association between birth weight and hypertension is independent of genetic factors. In contrast, recent twin and intergenerational studies favour the hypothesis that the association between birth weight and risk of type 2 diabetes is confounded by genetic factors.

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