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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Apr;278(4):E700-6.

Fetal growth and the physiological control of glucose tolerance in adults: a minimal model analysis.

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Medical Research Council Metabolic Programming Group, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, United Kingdom.


Although there is now substantial evidence linking low birthweight with impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes in adult life, the extent to which reduced fetal growth is associated with impaired insulin sensitivity, defective insulin secretion, or a combination of both factors is not clear. We have therefore examined the relationships between birth size and both insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion as assessed by an intravenous glucose tolerance test with minimal model analysis in 163 men and women, aged 20 yr, born at term in Adelaide, South Australia. Birth size did not correlate with body mass index or fat distribution in men or women. Men who were lighter or shorter as babies were less insulin sensitive (P = 0.03 and P = 0.01, respectively), independently of their body mass index or body fat distribution. They also had higher insulin secretion (P = 0.007 and P = 0.006) and increased glucose effectiveness (P = 0.003 and P = 0.003). Overall glucose tolerance, however, did not correlate with birth size, suggesting that the reduced insulin sensitivity was being compensated for by an increase in insulin secretion and insulin-independent glucose disposal. There were no relationships between birth size and insulin sensitivity or insulin secretion in women. These results show that small size at birth is associated with increased insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia in young adult life but that these relationships are restricted to the male gender in this age group.

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