According to researchers in the Netherlands, fast infant growth during the first three months after birth may cause an increased risk of asthma. Fetal growth did not appear to have an effect on asthma risk, according to data collected in the Generation R Study Group.

Researchers noted a link found in previous studies between low birth weight and increased risk of asthma in childhood, but information how specific growth patterns during infancy affected asthma risk was lacking. During the study, researchers found a connection between early infant growth rates and asthma risk in early childhood, regardless of growth patterns in-utero. The study results were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Investigators did not hold a specific data collection event for information pertaining to the asthma study. Rather, information was collected as part of the Generation R Study Group in the Netherlands. Using questioned embedded in the study, researchers were able to ascertain the increased risk associated with accelerated infant growth in the first three months of life.

When infants displayed normal growth in-utero but accelerated growth during the first three months after birth, asthma risk increased. According to the study, children in the study exhibited wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough, and regular phlegm production more often than children with normal growth rates after birth. According to Dr. Liesbeth Duijts, study author, “Our results suggest that the relationship between infant weight gain and asthma symptoms is not due to the accelerated growth of fetal growth-restricted infants only. While the mechanisms underlying this relationship are unclear, accelerated weight growth in early life might adversely affect lung growth and might be associated with adverse changes in the immune system.”

The study, while clearly indicating a connection between growth rate post-birth and asthma risk, relies on reports of asthma symptoms given by parents involved with the study. Fetal weight was also estimated in some cases. Researchers believe further study is needed to reinforce the outcome and investigate the long-term effects of accelerated infant growth on asthma risk into late childhood, teens and adulthood.

Source: A. M. M. Sonnenschein-van der Voort, V. W. V. Jaddoe, H. Raat, H. A. Moll, A. Hofman, J. C. de Jongste, L. Duijts. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 20 January 2012.