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Birth Weight Associated With Leukocyte Count in Adults

Adults who had a low birth weight have higher levels of leukocytes

THURSDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Adult levels of leukocytes -- the primary cells behind the inflammation that is associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes -- vary according to weight at birth, according to study findings published online March 10 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Dexter Canoy, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a study of 5,619 children born in 1966 who were followed-up 31 years later to determine their absolute leukocyte count.

Among those who were in the higher birth weight categories, total leukocyte counts were lower, and the association stood even among a subset of healthy, non-smoking subjects, the investigators found. Those with the lowest weight at 1 year of age had the strongest association with high leukocyte levels, the researchers note.

"Earlier studies relating fetal growth retardation with subsequent coronary heart disease have focused on the role of blood pressure and lipids as possible mediating factors. Our findings suggest that low-grade inflammation, not explained by classical risk factors of coronary heart disease, may also be involved," the authors write. "Finding out other determinants of low-grade inflammation throughout the life course, including maternal and fetal conditions during pregnancy and plausible genetic influences, may help unravel the underlying explanation of our findings."

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