It is already known that poor foetal growth is associated with high blood pressure, type II diabetes (adult onset diabetes), and cardiovascular diseases in later life. This new study from Karolinska Institutet is more extensive than previous studies, and uses a totally new approach by also investigating the risk posed to fathers. The study analysed the relationship between the birth weight of the baby and the parents’ mortality by comparing registers that contained information on all parents whose children were born in Sweden between 1973 and 1980; a total of 783,814 children were born in Sweden during this period.

Low birth weight was not only found to be associated with cardiovascular diseases but to increased risk of all other causes of death. The study also revealed that mothers of babies who have a low birth weight are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than fathers. However, the most important result was a clear inverse relationship between the birth weight of the baby and the risk of cardiovascular diseases among fathers. This is probably due to genetic factors.

”The next step is to conduct more in-depth research to find out which genetic factors may be responsible for this interesting relationship,” says Finn Rasmussen, associate professor and senior lecturer at the Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet.

Contact: Finn Rasmussen, associate professor and senior lecturer at the Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet. Telephone: +46-8-737 38 27, +46-70-484 04 43. E-mail: Finn.Rasmussen@phs.ki.se.

The article has been published in Epidemiology 2005;16: 563-569.

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