Aim To examine the relationship between birth weight and risk of asthma in a population of twins.
Methods Birth weight of all live twins (8280 pairs) born in Denmark between 1994 and 2000 was linked to information on asthma obtained from parent-completed questionnaires at age 3–9 years. Conditional logistic regression was used to calculate the risk of asthma.
Results Subjects with a history of asthma at age 3–9 years weighed on average 122 g (95% CI 85 to 160) less at birth than subjects who had not developed asthma, p<0.001. There was a linear increase in asthma risk with decreasing birth weight, OR (per 100 g) 1.04 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.05), p<0.001. Within twin pairs, the lower birthweight twin had a significantly increased risk of asthma compared with the heavier co-twin (11.3% vs 9.9%), OR 1.30 (95% CI 1.10 to 1.54), p=0.002. The result remained significant after adjusting for sex, birth length and Apgar score, OR 1.31 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.65), p=0.027. The risk tended to be higher in monozygotic co-twins compared with dizygotic co-twins, especially for high birth weight differences.
Conclusions Low birth weight is a risk factor for asthma independently of gestational age, sex, birth length and Apgar score, but this may be due, in part, to residual non-genetic confounding factors. This finding lends support to the “fetal origins hypothesis” suggesting undisclosed prenatal determinants for the risk of asthma.
- birth weight
- fetal origins hypothesis
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Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was approved by the local Scientific Ethical Committee.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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