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Several studies suggest that low birthweight resulting from restricted intrauterine growth can leave a metabolic footprint which may persist into adulthood. To investigate this, we performed metabolomic profiling on 5036 female twins, aged 18-80, with weight at birth information available from the TwinsUK cohort and performed independent replication in two additional cohorts. Out of 422 compounds tested, 25 metabolites associated with birthweight in these twins, replicated in 1951 men and women from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study (HCS, aged 66) and in 2391 men and women from the North Finland Birth 1986 cohort (NFBC, aged 16). We found distinct heterogeneity between sexes and, after adjusting for multiple tests and heterogeneity, two metabolites were reproducible overall (propionylcarnitine and 3-4-hydroxyphenyllactate). Testing women only, we found other metabolites associated with lower birthweight from the meta-analysis of the three cohorts (2-hydroxy-butyric acid and γ-glutamylleucine). Higher levels of all these metabolites can be linked to insulin resistance, oxidative stress or a dysfunction of energy metabolism, suggesting that low birthweight in both twins and singletons are having an impact on these pathways in adulthood.

Original publication




Journal article


Plos one

Publication Date





Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Carnitine, Cohort Studies, Dipeptides, Female, Fetal Growth Retardation, Finland, Humans, Hydroxybutyrates, Infant, Low Birth Weight, Infant, Newborn, Insulin Resistance, Male, Metabolome, Metabolomics, Middle Aged, Oxidative Stress, Phenylpropionates, Pregnancy, Sex Factors, Twins, United Kingdom, Young Adult