Background: There is uncertainty about the impact of the programming hypothesis in terms of nutritional status at birth, rate of growth in the first year of life, length of gestation, breast feeding, and episodes of illness on asthma. An analysis was therefore carried out to test this hypothesis.
Methods: Data were collected on 1232 children born between 1974 and 1978 in a semi-rural area of Chile. Measurements at birth and growth in the first year of life were obtained from a birth registry and clinical notes. Information on asthma was collected using the European Community Respiratory Health Survey questionnaire. Sensitisation to eight allergens and bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) to methacholine were determined. All other information was obtained using a questionnaire. Polytomous logistic analyses were carried out to explore the association of factors at birth and during the first year of life with asthma symptoms, atopy, and BHR.
Results: Weight and length gain in the first year were positively associated with wheeze (odds ratio (OR) 1.004, 95% CI 1.001 to 1.007 and OR 1.11, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.25, respectively). A higher body mass index (BMI) at birth was protective in subjects reporting both wheeze and waking with breathlessness (OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.35 to 0.84). Length rate in tertiles divided by length at birth in tertiles was related to asthma symptoms (OR 1.68, 95% CI 1.19 to 2.37). Most other assessments were not associated with asthma.
Conclusion: These results show promising but inconclusive evidence that a rapid rate of growth in length, especially in newborn infants of low length, might be involved in the aetiology of asthma.
- growth rate
- early life events
- bronchial hyperresponsiveness
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The Wellcome Trust funded the study.
Competing interests: none declared
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