First-borns have a higher metabolic rate and carry a higher metabolic risk in young women attending a weight loss clinic

  • M. Siervo
  • B. C. M. Stephan
  • A. Colantuoni
  • J. C. K. Wells
Original Research Paper


BACKGROUND: Birth order has been associated with variability in early life growth and subsequent obesity risk, but the consequent metabolic risks have not been assessed. OBJECTIVE: To quantify the metabolic risk in young adulthood of being first-born relative to those born second or subsequently. METHODS: Body composition, resting metabolic rate and metabolic risk were assessed in 383 women, aged 18–35 years, from a clinical setting in southern Italy. RESULTS: First-borns had increased body mass index, adiposity and metabolic risk (p<0.05) and increased resting metabolic rate adjusted for fat-free mass (p<0.05) in the Italian women. CONCLUSION: First-born status is associated with significantly elevated metabolic risk in a clinical population of overweight and obese young women attending a weight loss clinic. If these findings are confirmed in other studies, they may suggest that the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome worldwide may increase as a function of the trend to smaller family size.

Key words

Birth order fetal programming life-course epidemiology metabolic risk 


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Copyright information

© Editrice Kurtis 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Siervo
    • 1
  • B. C. M. Stephan
    • 2
  • A. Colantuoni
    • 1
  • J. C. K. Wells
    • 3
  1. 1.Nutrition Physiology, Department of NeuroscienceUniversity “Federico II”, Faculty of MedicineNapoliItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Public HealthUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Childhood Nutrition Research CentreUCL Institute of Child HealthLondonUK

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