Birth weight is positively related to bone size in adolescents but inversely related to cortical bone mineral density: findings from a large prospective cohort study

Colin D Steer, Adrian Sayers, John Kemp, William D Fraser, Jon H Tobias

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12 Citations (Scopus)


To examine the influence of intrauterine environment on subsequent bone development, we investigated the relationship between birth weight and cortical bone parameters, and the role of puberty, bone resorption and insulin as possible mediators. Bone outcomes were obtained from mid-tibial pQCT scans performed at age 15.5 years in 1960 males and 2192 females from the ALSPAC birth cohort. Birth weight was positively related to periosteal circumference (PC) [beta=0.40 (0.34, 0.46)], which was largely but not completely attenuated after adjustment for height and weight [beta=0.07 (0.02, 0.12)] (SD change in outcome per 1 kg increase in birth weight with 95% CI). Based on our height and weight adjusted model, the association was stronger in females compared to males (P=0.02 for gender interaction), and persisted in 2842 participants with equivalent results at age 17.7 years. Conversely, birth weight was inversely related to cortical bone mineral density (BMDC) at age 15.5 years after adjusting for height and weight [beta=-0.18 (-0.23, -0.13)], with a stronger association in males compared to females (P=0.01 for gender interaction), but an equivalent association was not seen at 17.7 years. In further analyses performed on data from age 15.5 years, the association between birth weight and PC was unaffected by adjustment for puberty (Tanner stage at age 13.5 years), bone resorption (fasting beta-carboxyterminal cross linking telopeptide (βCTX) at age 15.5 years) or insulin (fasting insulin at age 15.5 years). In contrast, the association with BMDC was attenuated by approximately 30% after adjustment for puberty or bone resorption, and by 50% after adjustment for both factors combined. We conclude that the inverse relationship between birth weight and BMDC is in part mediated by effects of puberty and bone resorption, which may help to explain the transitory nature of this association, in contrast to the more persisting relationship with PC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-82
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Adolescent
  • Birth Weight
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed

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