Low Birth Weight Can Have Lifelong Health Consequences

Posted on 07.10.2020

A researcher is to follow up the 20-year-old Inter99 Cohort study to look at the significance of low birth weight and premature birth for the development of type 2 diabetes and micro- and macrovascular complications throughout adult life.

Recent research has shown that low-birth-weight or premature babies have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease in adulthood. Moreover, birth weight probably has an independent effect on the development of eye, kidney and nerve complications frequently observed in people with type 2 diabetes. However, more studies using high-quality data are needed to pinpoint this relationship in an aging and well-characterized population group.

Unique Danish registries

In his three-year postdoctoral project, Rasmus Wibæk Christensen MSc PhD, who has previously researched birth weight and the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in a birth cohort from Ethiopia, will use data from the Danish Inter99 study of 1999-2001, which included nearly 7,000 Danish people aged between 30 and 60. On the basis of this data, it has previously been shown that people born underweight had an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. With the help of the unique Danish registries, the Inter99 participants will now be followed up over a 20-year period, from 1999/2000 to 2020.

‘The Inter99 study gives us a well-characterized population group that we can study and that will contribute to a deeper understanding of how type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases develop throughout adulthood, and how these development patterns are related to factors such as low birth weight and premature birth’, says Rasmus Wibæk Christensen, whose project will be supported by a grant of DKK 1.8 million from the Danish Diabetes Academy.

‘As well as carrying out registry research, we will take the opportunity to invite former participants to take part in a new clinical study, 20 years after the original studies. The aim is to use newer and far more advanced technology to determine and validate participants’ risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and further complications’.

A network built up through the DDA

Four years ago, Rasmus Wibæk Christensen received a PhD scholarship from the Danish Diabetes Academy, when he studied the relationship between babies’ growth and their body composition in an Ethiopian birth cohort, as well as cardiometabolic changes later in childhood.

As a PhD student, he attended several of the DDA’s courses and meetings, where he built up a professional network. At the 2017 Summer School, he met the Indian professor Ranjan Yanik, who was a DDA visiting professor that summer, and two years later they were co-authors of an article series entitled The double burden of malnutrition: Aetiological pathways and consequences for health in the highly regarded journal The Lancet.

Facts

Rasmus Wibæk Christensen, MSc in Public Health Science, PhD, born 1987
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4989-2084

Has been awarded DKK 1.8 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy.

Project title: A 20-year cardiometabolic outcome follow-up of the Inter99 cohort: The role of birth weight and prematurity

Research centre: Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen.

Contact: +45 2830 2381

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