The importance of fetal factors for chronic diseases: A twin study

In these studies we use twin and family data to study the effect of birth weight on risk of mental health and cardiovascular disease, and investigate how familial effects might mediate this association.

Project description

Fetal factors are important for the development of both mental and somatic diseases. Lately, studies have shown that mothers of low birth weight children are of increased risk for ischaemic heart disease and other cardiovascular related outcomes. These results are interesting because they suggest that the association between reduced fetal growth and various cardiovascular phenotypes may be mediated by familial effects (genetic and/or shared environmental). Similar results have been suggested by twin studies. Thus, it is still not settled whether there exists an independent effect of low birth weight on cardiovascular disease or not, and further, whether the suggested familial mediation is of genetic and/or environmental origin.

In one of our studies we showed that there was no association between birth characteristics and myocardial infarction within twin pairs suggesting that previously reported associations might be influenced by genetic and early environmental factors.

Main financing: Vetenskapsrådet

Project leader


Paul Lichtenstein

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 874 24
Organizational unit: Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (MEB), C8


Professor, senior

Sven Cnattingius

Organizational unit: Group O Stephansson

Professor emerita

Christina Hultman



Birthweight, early environment, and genetics: a study of twins discordant for acute myocardial infarction.
Hübinette A, Cnattingius S, Ekbom A, de Faire U, Kramer M, Lichtenstein P
Lancet 2001 Jun;357(9273):1997-2001
Birth weight and risk of angina pectoris: analysis in Swedish twins.
Hubinette A, Cnattingius S, Johansson A, Henriksson C, Lichtenstein P
Eur. J. Epidemiol. 2003 ;18(6):539-44
Low birthweight and Type 2 diabetes: a study on 11 162 Swedish twins.
Iliadou A, Cnattingius S, Lichtenstein P
Int J Epidemiol 2004 Oct;33(5):948-53; discussion 953-4
Fetal growth restriction and schizophrenia: a Swedish twin study.
Nilsson E, Stålberg G, Lichtenstein P, Cnattingius S, Olausson P, Hultman C
Twin Res Hum Genet 2005 Aug;8(4):402-8
Birth weight and attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms in childhood and early adolescence: a prospective Swedish twin study.
Hultman C, Torrång A, Tuvblad C, Cnattingius S, Larsson J, Lichtenstein P
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2007 Mar;46(3):370-7

Twin research