Early Origins of Inflammation: Long Term Effects of Birth Weight and Breastfeeding Duration on C-Reactive Protein in Young Adulthood

Thomas W. McDade, Northwestern University
Molly Metzger, Northwestern University
Laura Chyu, Northwestern University
Craig Garfield, Northwestern University
Emma Adam, Northwestern University

Inflammation has become a major focus of population-based research as a plausible link between social environments and health over the life course. Recent findings suggest that early life environments have lasting effects on the regulation of inflammation in adulthood, with implications for risk for a wide range of chronic degenerative diseases. In this paper we use data from a large, nationally representative sample of US adults (Add Health) to investigate whether birth weight and breastfeeding duration in infancy predict C-reactive protein (CRP) concentration in young adulthood. Results from weighted least squares and sibling fixed-effects regression models indicate that higher birth weight, and longer duration of breastfeeding, both predict lower CRP in young adulthood. These findings point to inflammation as a potentially important pathway through which early environments have lasting effects on chronic disease risk, and they underscore the relevance of both prenatal and early postnatal environments to adult health.

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Presented in Session 66: Contributions of Biodemography to Understanding Health, Aging and Mortality