Poor fetal growth rate is associated with lower respiratory function; however, there is limited understanding of the impact of growth trends and BMI during childhood on adult respiratory function.
The current study data are from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy birth cohort. Prospective data were available from 1,740 young adults who performed standard spirometry at 21 years of age and whose birth weight and weight, height, and BMI at 5, 14, and 21 years of age were available. Catch-up growth was defined as an increase of 0.67 Z score in weight between measurements. The impact of catch-up growth on adult lung function and the relationship between childhood BMI trends and adult lung function were assessed using regression analyses.
Lung function was higher at 21 years in those demonstrating catch-up growth from birth to 5 years (FVC, men: 5.33 L vs 5.54 L; women: 3.78 L vs 4.03 L; and FEV1, men: 4.52 L/s vs 4.64 L/s; women: 3.31 L/s vs 3.45 L/s). Subjects in the lowest quintile of birth (intrauterine growth retardation) also showed improved lung function if they had catch-up growth in the first 5 years of life. There was a positive correlation between increasing BMI and lung function at 5 years of age. However, in the later measurements when BMI increased into the obese category, a drop in lung function was observed.
These data show evidence for a positive contribution of catch-up growth in early life to adult lung function. However, if weight gain or onset of obesity occurs after 5 years of age, an adverse impact on adult lung function is noted.