Birth weight influences cardiac structure, function, and disease risk: evidence of a causal association

Maddalena Ardissino, Alec P Morley, Eric A W Slob, Art Schuermans, Bilal Rayes, Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, Antonio de Marvao, Stephen Burgess, Tormod Rogne, Michael C Honigberg, Fu Siong Ng

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims: Low birth weight is a common pregnancy complication, which has been associated with higher risk of cardiometabolic disease in later life. Prior Mendelian randomization (MR) studies exploring this question do not distinguish the mechanistic contributions of variants that directly influence birth weight through the foetal genome (direct foetal effects), vs. variants influencing birth weight indirectly by causing an adverse intrauterine environment (indirect maternal effects). In this study, MR was used to assess whether birth weight, independent of intrauterine influences, is associated with cardiovascular disease risk and measures of adverse cardiac structure and function. Methods: Uncorrelated (r2 <. 001), genome-wide significant (P < 5 × 10-8) single nucleotide polymorphisms were extracted from genome-wide association studies summary statistics for birth weight overall, and after isolating direct foetal effects only. Inverse-variance weighted MR was utilized for analyses on outcomes of atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, heart failure, ischaemic stroke, and 16 measures of cardiac structure and function. Multiple comparisons were accounted for by Benjamini-Hochberg correction. Results: Lower genetically-predicted birth weight, isolating direct foetal effects only, was associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease (odds ratio 1.21, 95% confidence interval 1.06-1.37; P =. 031), smaller chamber volumes, and lower stroke volume, but higher contractility. Conclusions: The results of this study support a causal role of low birth weight in cardiovascular disease, even after accounting for the influence of the intrauterine environment. This suggests that individuals with a low birth weight may benefit from early targeted cardiovascular disease prevention strategies, independent of whether this was linked to an adverse intrauterine environment during gestation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-454
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Heart Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2024

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