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Birth weight is positively associated with adult osteoporosis risk: observational and Mendelian randomization studies

Xing-Hao Yu 1 2Yong-Yue Wei 3Ping Zeng 4Shu-Feng Lei 1 2

J Bone Miner Res. 2021 Jun 9.doi: 10.1002/jbmr.4316. 


The relationship between birth weight and osteoporosis was inconsistent in previous observational studies. Therefore, we performed a systematic evaluation to determine the inconsistent relationship and further make causal inference based on the UK Biobank datasets (~500,000 individuals) and individual/summary-level genetic datasets. Observational analyses found consistent negative associations either between birth weight and estimated bone mineral density (eBMD) or between genetic risk score (GRS) of birth weight and eBMD in total subjects, and sex-stratified subgroups. Mediation analyses detected significant mediation effects of adult weight and height on associations between birth weight and eBMD. Birth weight was causally associated not only with three BMD phenotypes (eBMD, total body [TB]-BMD, and femoral neck [FN]-BMD) under two effect models (total and fetal effect), but also with the risk of fracture using different Mendelian randomization (MR) methods. Multivariable MR analyses detected the pleiotropic effects of some environmental factors (e.g., gestational duration, head circumference, hip circumference) on the associations between birth weight and BMD/fracture. Three BMD phenotypes (eBMD, TB-BMD, and FN-BMD) have significant mediation effects on the associations between birth weight and fracture by using a novel mediation MR analysis under the multivariable MR framework. This multistage systematic study found consistent causal associations between birth weight and osteoporosis risk, fetal origin of genetic effects underlying the associations, and several mediation factors on the detected associations. The results enhanced our understanding of the effects of fetal original phenotypes on outcomes in late adulthood and provided helpful clues for early prevention research on osteoporosis.