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J Intern Med. 2007 Jul;262(1):96-103.

Birth weight is nongenetically associated with glucose intolerance in elderly twins, independent of adult obesity.

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Steno Diabetes Center, Gentofte, Denmark.



Using a unique twin approach, we examined the extent to which birth weight is determined by genetic and nongenetic factors and whether associations between birth weight and measures of glucose metabolism are of genetic or nongenetic origin.


An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was performed in a population-based cohort of twins including 138 same-sex monozygotic (MZ) and 214 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs aged 55-73 years whose birth weight was known. Heritability of birth weight was determined and regression analyses with intra-twin pair differences of birth weight and measures of glucose metabolism, with and without adjustment for adult obesity, were performed.


The heritability of birth weight was estimated to be 38%. We demonstrated significant nongenetic associations between birth weight and measures of glucose homeostasis in MZ twins, with a reduction in fasting plasma glucose, 120 min post-OGTT plasma glucose, fasting plasma insulin and HOMA-IR index of 15.7%, 25.5%, 26.4% and 37.2%, respectively, for every 1 kg increase in birth weight. The nongenetic negative associations between birth weight and measures of glucose intolerance were independent of adult obesity, whereas the nongenetic association between birth weight and insulin resistance persisted, although not as strongly, after adjusting for current body size.


We demonstrated a genetic component to birth weight in elderly twins. When adjusting for this influence, we found a nongenetic negative association between birth weight and glucose tolerance as well as insulin resistance that was partially independent of adult obesity. This implies that the foetal environment influences glucose homeostasis in elderly twins.

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