People who have a birth weight over 10 pounds are twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis when they are adults compared to individuals born with an average birth weight, according to a study published by researchers from Hospital for Special Surgery online in advance of print in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
While the mechanism for this association is unclear, the study identifies a potentially modifiable risk factor and highlights a potential way to decrease the incidence of the disease.
“There may be a relationship between being born over 10 pounds and getting rheumatoid arthritis later in life,” said Lisa Mandl, M.D., MPH, who led the study and is an attending rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. “If there was some way that you could prevent someone from getting rheumatoid arthritis by making sure their birth weight wasn’t over 10 pounds, this is a risk factor that could be modifiable. You can’t change someone’s age. You can’t change someone’s gender, but potentially, you could change someone’s birth weight. This is, however, only speculative at this point.”
Through statistical analysis, the investigators discovered that a birth weight of greater than 4.54 kg doubled the risk that a person would develop rheumatoid arthritis as an adult compared with individuals who had an average birth weight.
Dr. Mandl said that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are known to have a dysregulated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and this axis may be affected in utero. The HPA axis is the body’s neuroendocrine system that involves the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands; this system is responsible for handling stress by regulating the production of cortisol, neurotransmitters and key hormones.
In addition to researchers from Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Cornell Medical College, investigators from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School contributed to the study. This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Source: Hospital for Special Surgery, USA