Why evidence for the fetal origins of adult disease might be a statistical artifact: the "reversal paradox" for the relation between birth weight and blood pressure in later life.
ABSTRACT Some researchers have recently questioned the validity of associations between birth weight and health in later life. They argue that these associations might be due in part to inappropriate statistical adjustment for variables on the causal pathway (such as current body size), which creates an artifactual statistical effect known as the "reversal paradox." Computer simulations were conducted for three hypothetical relations between birth weight and adult blood pressure. The authors examined the effect of statistically adjusting for different correlations between current weight and birth weight and between current weight and adult blood pressure to assess their impact on associations between birth weight and blood pressure. When there was no genuine relation between birth weight and blood pressure, adjustment for current weight created an inverse association whose size depended on the magnitude of the positive correlations between current weight and birth weight and between current weight and blood pressure. When there was a genuine inverse relation between birth weight and blood pressure, the association was exaggerated following adjustment for current weight, whereas a positive relation between birth weight and blood pressure could be reversed after adjusting for current weight. Thus, researchers must consider the reversal paradox when adjusting for variables that lie within causal pathways.
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ABSTRACT: This research investigates the associations between body mass index (BMI) at 21, 40-59, 60-79 years of age on cardiometabolic risk markers at 60-79 years. A prospective study of 3464 British men with BMI measured at 40-59 and 60-79 years, when cardiometabolic risk was assessed. BMI at 21 years was ascertained from military records, or recalled from middle-age (adjusted for reporting bias); associations between BMI at different ages and later cardiometabolic risk markers were examined using linear regression. Sensitive period, accumulation and mobility life course models were devised for high BMI (defined as BMI≥75th centile) and compared with a saturated BMI trajectory model. At ages 21, 40-59 and 60-79 years, prevalences of overweight (BMI≥25 kg/m2) were 12%, 53%, 70%, and obesity (≥30 kg/m2) 1.6%, 6.6%, and 17.6%, respectively. BMI at 21 years was positively associated with serum insulin, blood glucose, and HbA1c at 60-79 years, with increases of 1.5% (95%CI 0.8,2.3%), 0.4% (0.1,0.6%), 0.3% (0.1,0.4%) per 1 kg/m2, respectively, but showed no associations with blood pressure or blood cholesterol. However, these associations were modest compared to those between BMI at 60-79 years and serum insulin, blood glucose and HbA1c at 60-79 years, with increases of 8.6% (8.0,9.2%), 0.7% (0.5,0.9%), and 0.5% (0.4,0.7%) per 1 kg/m2, respectively. BMI at 60-79 years was also associated with total cholesterol and blood pressure. Associations for BMI at 40-59 years were mainly consistent with those of BMI at 60-79 years. None of the life course models fitted the data as well as the saturated model for serum insulin. A sensitive period at 50 years for glucose and HbA1c and sensitive period at 70 years for blood pressure were identified. In this cohort of men who were thin compared to more contemporary cohorts, BMI in later life was the dominant influence on cardiovascular and diabetes risk. BMI in early adult life may have a small long-term effect on diabetes risk.PLoS ONE 12/2014; 9(12):e114289. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0114289 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Aims/hypothesis Lower birthweight (a marker of fetal undernutrition) is associated with higher risks of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and could explain ethnic differences in these diseases. We examined associations between birthweight and risk markers for diabetes and CVD in UK-resident white European, South Asian and black African-Caribbean children. Methods In a cross-sectional study of risk markers for diabetes and CVD in 9- to 10-year-old children of different ethnic origins, birthweight was obtained from health records and/or parental recall. Associations between birthweight and risk markers were estimated using multilevel linear regression to account for clustering in children from the same school. Results Key data were available for 3,744 (66%) singleton study participants. In analyses adjusted for age, sex and ethnicity, birthweight was inversely associated with serum urate and positively associated with systolic BP. After additional height adjustment, lower birthweight (per 100 g) was associated with higher serum urate (0.52%; 95% CI 0.38, 0.66), fasting serum insulin (0.41%; 95% CI 0.08, 0.74), HbA1c (0.04%; 95% CI 0.00, 0.08), plasma glucose (0.06%; 95% CI 0.02, 0.10) and serum triacylglycerol (0.30%; 95% CI 0.09, 0.51) but not with BP or blood cholesterol. Birthweight was lower among children of South Asian (231 g lower; 95% CI 183, 280) and black African-Caribbean origin (81 g lower; 95% CI 30, 132). However, adjustment for birthweight had no effect on ethnic differences in risk markers. Conclusions/interpretation Birthweight was inversely associated with urate and with insulin and glycaemia after adjustment for current height. Lower birthweight does not appear to explain emerging ethnic difference in risk markers for diabetes.Diabetologia 12/2014; 58(3). DOI:10.1007/s00125-014-3474-7 · 6.88 Impact Factor