0557 GMT December 09, 2019
Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia found children at both ends of the weight spectrum at birth are at higher risk to develop fat around organs, as well as insulin resistance and inflammation, that may not be modified through diet and lifestyle.
Normal birth weight is considered 5.5 pounds to 8.4 pounds. Low birth weight is thought to be caused by growth restriction at any point in pregnancy, either because of an insufficient placenta or inadequate nutrition.
While high birth weight babies are known to have greater risk for obesity and other health problems, the researchers said they are unsure as to why the same is true for low birth weight beyond the results of the new study, as well as previous ones.
"The five-pound baby, regardless of whether he grows up to be obese, normal weight or thin is going to have more visceral adiposity than a similar child with a normal birthweight," Dr. Brian Stansfield, a neonatologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, said in a press release.
For the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers gathered information from parents on the birth weights of on 575 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18, obtained fasting blood samples for each child, and measured glucose, insulin, lipids, adiponectin, leptin and C-reactive protein. The researchers also measured subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue and visceral adipose tissue in each child.
The researchers found adolescents born at a low weight had similar bodies to those born at average weights, but higher visceral adiposity and higher levels of insulin — both of which are linked to obesity and higher BMI. High birth weight children were found to be nearly twice as likely to be obese as average birthweight children.
The results of the new study, Stansfield said, echo previous studies that suggested the lifelong effects of birth weight on weight. How this works, and whether intervention can alter children's potential for obesity is unknown, she said.