Research Article

Fetal and infant growth and impaired glucose tolerance at age 64.

BMJ 1991; 303 doi: (Published 26 October 1991) Cite this as: BMJ 1991;303:1019
  1. C N Hales,
  2. D J Barker,
  3. P M Clark,
  4. L J Cox,
  5. C Fall,
  6. C Osmond,
  7. P D Winter
  1. Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital.


    OBJECTIVE--To discover whether reduced fetal and infant growth is associated with non-insulin dependent diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance in adult life. DESIGN--Follow up study of men born during 1920-30 whose birth weights and weights at 1 year were known. SETTING--Hertfordshire, England. SUBJECTS--468 men born in east Hertfordshire and still living there. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Fasting plasma glucose, insulin, proinsulin, and 32-33 split pro-insulin concentrations and plasma glucose and insulin concentrations 30 and 120 minutes after a 75 g glucose drink. RESULTS--93 men had impaired glucose tolerance or hitherto undiagnosed diabetes. They had had a lower mean birth weight and a lower weight at 1 year. The proportion of men with impaired glucose tolerance fell progressively from 26% (6/23) among those who had weighted 18 lb (8.16 kg) or less at 1 year to 13% (3/24) among those who had weighed 27 lb (12.25 kg) or more. Corresponding figures for diabetes were 17% (4/23) and nil (0/24). Plasma glucose concentrations at 30 and 120 minutes fell with increasing birth weight and weight at 1 year. Plasma 32-33 split proinsulin concentration fell with increasing weight at 1 year. All these trends were significant and independent of current body mass. Blood pressure was inversely related to birth weight and strongly related to plasma glucose and 32-33 split proinsulin concentrations. CONCLUSIONS--Reduced growth in early life is strongly linked with impaired glucose tolerance and non-insulin dependent diabetes. Reduced early growth is also related to a raised plasma concentration of 32-33 split proinsulin, which is interpreted as a sign of beta cell dysfunction. Reduced intrauterine growth is linked with high blood pressure, which may explain the association between hypertension and impaired glucose tolerance.