The growth of babies in the first three years of life affects the development of lung function and the risk of developing asthma when they reach 10 years of age. Thus, babies who gained weight faster and had a higher body mass index had lower lung function years later.
The first years of life are a critical time for the appearance of possible respiratory diseases in childhood and in adulthood. Recently, several studies have observed that a weight gain higher than that recommended during this period may be associated with poorer lung function and an increased risk of developing asthma at school age.
A new study, carried out by the Institute of Global Health of Barcelona (ISGlobal) and the Erasmus University Medical Center of Rotterdam, aimed to analyze whether child growth patterns, derived from weight and height measured repeatedly during the first three years of life, affected respiratory health at 10 years of age.
Specifically, the growth patterns analyzed were the maximum growth speed in weight and height, which usually occurs at the age of one month, and the time when the body mass index reaches its maximum, which usually happens around the nine months of age. The work is published in the journal Thorax.
The experts followed 4,435 girls and boys from the Generation R Study cohort of the Netherlands from before their birth until they were 10 years of age. The weight and height of the participants were measured on several occasions throughout their first three years of life. At 10 years of age they underwent spirometry to measure their lung function and their parents filled out a questionnaire to find out if they had been diagnosed with asthma.
The data showed that babies who gained weight faster and had a higher body mass index had lower lung function at 10 years of age.
“Specifically, in these cases the function of the airways was proportionally less than what it would have corresponded according the lung capacity. Although there was no relationship between weight and height growth and asthma risk, this disproportionate development of lung function could be a risk factor for respiratory diseases,” concludes Maribel Casas, researcher at ISGlobal and Erasmus University Medical Center and first author of the publication.
On the other hand, it was also observed that “the later the maximum body mass index was reached, the lung function was better and, in the case of children, the lower risk of asthma“, explains Casas.
“The results of this study confirm that childhood growth during the first years of life is important for lung development,” adds the researcher.