Are birthweight and postnatal weight gain in childhood associated with blood pressure in early adolescence? Results from a Ugandan birth cohort.

Lule, S.A. ; Namara, B. ; Akurut, H. ; Muhangi, L. ; Lubyayi, L. ; Nampijja, M. ; Akello, F. ; Tumusiime, J. ; Aujo, J.C. ; Oduru, G. ; Smeeth, L. ; Elliott, A.M. ; Webb, E.L. ;
Are birthweight and postnatal weight gain in childhood associated with blood pressure in early adolescence? Results from a Ugandan birth cohort.
Int J Epidemiol, 2018;

In Africa, where low birthweight (LBW), malnutrition and high blood pressure (BP) are prevalent, the relationships between birthweight (BW), weight gain and BP later in life remain uncertain. We examined the effects of early life growth on BP among Ugandan adolescents.

Data were collected prenatally from women and their offspring were followed from birth, with BP measured following standard protocols in early adolescence. Weight-for-age Z-scores (WAZ) were computed using World Health Organization references. Linear regression was used to relate BW, and changes in WAZ between birth and 5 years, to adolescents’ BP, adjusting for confounders.

Among 2345 live offspring, BP was measured in 1119 (47.7%) adolescents, with mean systolic BP 105.9 mmHg and mean diastolic BP 65.2 mmHg. There was little evidence of association between BW and systolic [regression coefficient β = 0.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) (-1.00, 1.27)] or diastolic [β = 0.43, 95% CI (-0.57, 1.43)] BP. Accelerated weight gain between birth and 5 years was associated with increased BP: systolic β = 1.17, 95% CI (0.69, 1.66) and diastolic β = 1.03, 95% CI (0.59, 1.47). Between birth and 6 months of age, effects of accelerated weight gain on adolescent BP were strongest among the LBW (both premature and small-for-gestational-age) children [BW < 2.5 kg: β = 2.64, 95% CI (0.91, 4.37), BW≥2.5 kg: β = 0.58, 95% CI (0.01, 1.14), interaction P-value =  0.024].

Findings from this large tropical birth cohort in Uganda suggest that postnatal weight gain rather than BW is important in the developmental programming of BP, with fast-growing LBW children at particular risk. Efforts to control BP should adopt a life course approach.