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Low Birth Weight Might Raise Adult Kidney Disease Risk

Babies under 5.5 pounds at increased odds for chronic illness, review finds

MONDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Low birth weight babies have a much greater risk of developing kidney disease later in life, according to researchers who reviewed 32 observational studies.

The meta-analysis found that people who were less than 5.5 pounds at birth were 70 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those with normal birth weight. The findings appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

"Experimental studies suggest that restricted growth of a fetus in the womb can interfere with normal kidney development and result in fewer and smaller filtering units, or nephrons, at birth," lead author Sarah L. White, of the George Institute and the University of Sydney in Australia, said in a news release from the U.S. National Kidney Foundation.

"Those with low birth weight may therefore be vulnerable to accelerated loss of kidney function later on as a result of any additional injuries to the kidney caused, for example, by accidents, infections or the presence of other risk factors such as diabetes," she explained.

White and colleagues identified significant associations between low birth weight and both of the principal markers of chronic kidney disease -- protein in the urine (albuminuria) and low estimated glomerular filtration rate (poor kidney function). The researchers also identified an association between low birth weight and subsequent development of kidney failure.

"Despite the association between low birth weight and risk of chronic kidney disease in later life, early detection and management of chronic kidney disease and its risk factors are highly effective in preventing adverse outcomes," White said.

"People who were very small at birth should avoid obesity that could lead to diabetes, maintain regular physical activity, avoid medications that could be toxic for the kidneys and see their doctors for simple assessment of chronic kidney disease including blood pressure measurement, a dipstick test for urinary protein and a blood test of serum creatinine level," she advised.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about chronic kidney disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: National Kidney Foundation, news release, Aug. 3, 2009

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