THOSE BIG 10-pound newborns that look like future Hall of Famers may be at an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. In a study of 84,077 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study from 1976 to 1992, Dr. Lisa Mandl at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and colleagues found that people who weighed more than 10 pounds at birth were twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as those who were of normal weight -- 7.1 to 8.5 pounds -- at birth.
This is not to say that heavier birth weight causes rheumatoid arthritis, Mandl says -- both may have the same underlying cause. "The same stressors that are preprogramming the fetus to be heavier when born may also be programming the fetus to develop rheumatoid arthritis later in life," she said. Gestational diabetes, for example, might create a large baby and also alter how the fetus produces hormones, possibly setting up the body for rheumatoid arthritis later in life.
Other researchers have noted a correlation between high and low birth weight and disease. Low birth weight has been associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension; high birth weight with a disorder called Sjögren’s syndrome. The results appeared online last week in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.