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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 17;8(6):e66554. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066554. Print 2013.

No association between low birth weight and cardiovascular risk factors in early adulthood: evidence from São Paulo, Brazil.

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Centro de Saúde Samuel Barnsley Pessoa, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.



A growing literature suggests that low birth weight increases the risk of poor health outcomes in adulthood. We tested this hypothesis among young adults living in São Paulo State, Brazil.


To identify the effects of low birth weight on young adulthood outcomes, a medical assessment of 297 individuals born between 1977 and 1989 was conducted at a primary care unit in São Paulo State, Brazil. We analyzed body mass index (BMI), waist-hip ratio, blood pressure, fasting glucose and total cholesterol levels using linear and logistic regressions. Low birth was negatively associated with BMI (β = -2.0, 95% CI: -3.69, -0.27, p = 0.02), fasting glucose levels (β = -1.9, 95% CI: -3.9, -0.07, p = 0.05), waist-hip ratio (β = -0.03, 95% CI: -0.07, -0.01, p = 0.10), systolic blood pressure (β = -3.32, 95% CI: -7.60, 0.96, p = 0.12), and total cholesterol levels (β = -3.19, 95% CI: -16.43, 10.05, p = 0.636). Low birth weight was also associated with lower odds of young adults being overweight and obese, but neither association was statistically significant. Weight gain in the first 12 months of life was associated with higher adult BMI (β = 0.79, 95% CI: -0.0455, 1.623, p = 0.064) and blood pressure (β = 2.79, 95% CI: 0.22, 5.35, p = 0.034). No associations were found between low birth weight and early life (catch-up) growth.


Low birth weight was not associated with poor health outcomes among young adults in Brazil. These results appear inconsistent with the original Barker hypothesis, but will need to be corroborated in larger samples with longer follow-ups to allow a more general evaluation of the validity of the hypothesis in low and middle income countries.

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