BACKGROUND: There is evidence that birth size is positively associated with height in later life, but it remains unclear whether this is explained by genetic factors or the intrauterine environment.
AIM: To analyze the associations of birth weight, length and ponderal index with height from infancy through adulthood within mono- and dizygotic twin pairs, which provides insights into the role of genetic and environmental individual-specific factors.
METHODS: This study is based on the data from 28 twin cohorts in 17 countries. The pooled data included 41,852 complete twin pairs (55% monozygotic and 45% same-sex dizygotic) with information on birth weight and a total of 112,409 paired height measurements at ages ranging from 1 to 69 years. Birth length was available for 19,881 complete twin pairs, with a total of 72,692 paired height measurements. The association between birth size and later height was analyzed at both the individual and within-pair level by linear regression analyses.
RESULTS: Within twin pairs, regression coefficients showed that a 1-kg increase in birth weight and a 1-cm increase in birth length were associated with 1.14-4.25 cm and 0.18-0.90 cm taller height, respectively. The magnitude of the associations was generally greater within dizygotic than within monozygotic twin pairs, and this difference between zygosities was more pronounced for birth length.
CONCLUSION: Both genetic and individual-specific environmental factors play a role in the association between birth size and later height from infancy to adulthood, with a larger role for genetics in the association with birth length than with birth weight.
- Birth length
- Birth weight
- Ponderal index