Associations of birth order with early growth and adolescent height, body composition, and blood pressure: Prospective birth cohort from Brazil

Jonathan C K Wells, Pedro C. Hallal, Felipe F. Reichert, Samuel C. Dumith, Ana M. Menezes, Cesar G. Victora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Birth weight has been inversely associated with later blood pressure. Firstborns tend to have lower birth weight than their later-born peers, but the long-term consequences remain unclear. The study objective was to investigate differences between firstborn and later-born individuals in early growth patterns, body composition, and blood pressure in Brazilian adolescents. The authors studied 453 adolescents aged 13.3 years from the prospective 1993 Pelotas Birth Cohort. Anthropometry, blood pressure, physical activity by accelerometry, and body composition by deuterium were measured. Firstborns (n = 143) had significantly lower birth weight than later borns (n = 310). At 4 years, firstborns had significantly greater weight and height, indicating a substantial overshoot in catch-up growth. In adolescence, firstborns had significantly greater height and blood pressure and a lower activity level. The difference in systolic blood pressure could be attributed to variability in early growth and that in diastolic blood pressure to reduced physical activity. The magnitude of increased blood pressure is clinically significant; hence, birth order is an important developmental predictor of cardiovascular risk in this population. Firstborns may be more sensitive to environmental factors that promote catch-up growth, and this information could potentially be used in nutritional management to prevent catch-up "overshoot".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1035
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Volume174
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • birth order
  • blood pressure
  • body composition
  • growth
  • motor activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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