BACKGROUND & AIMS: Lower birth weight is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease. These associations may, at least in part, be explained by alterations in dietary intake in later life. The aim of this study is to examine whether lower birth weight is associated with alterations in dietary intake in later life, and whether this association is due to intrauterine environmental or genetic factors.
METHODS: In this observational study birth weight and dietary intake were investigated in 78 dizygotic (DZ) and 94 monozygotic (MZ) adolescent same-sex twin subjects. Birth weight was obtained from the mothers. Dietary intake was assessed by two-day dietary records.
RESULTS: In the total group of twins, lower birth weight was associated with higher intake of saturated fat after adjustment for current weight (1.2 per cent of total energy intake (E%) per kg increase in birth weight, P < 0.01). Intra-pair analysis in all twin pairs demonstrated that twins with the lower birth weight had a 115 kcal higher total energy intake and a 0.7 E% higher saturated fat intake compared to their co-twins with the higher birth weight (P < 0.05). Intra-pair differences in birth weight were negatively associated with differences in energy intake and differences in intake of saturated fat after adjustment for differences in current weight (P = 0.07 and P < 0.05, respectively). Intra-pair differences in birth weight were positively associated with intra-pair differences in intake of dietary fibres (P < 0.05). These intra-pair differences and associations were similar for DZ and MZ twins (P for difference > 0.6).
CONCLUSIONS: Lower birth weight was related with higher intake of energy and saturated fat within twin pairs, and these associations were independent of zygosity, suggesting that the association between birth weight and alterations in dietary intake in later life is explained by intrauterine environmental rather than genetic factors.