Numerous studies have investigated the risk of developing asthma due to early-life experiences and environmental exposures. However, the influence of intrauterine growth restriction and postnatal undernutrition on childhood wheezing/asthma remains unclear. Thus, we examined the effects of both small for gestational age (SGA) and postnatal stunted growth on ever asthma among children in the rural areas in Bangladesh.
Multiple follow-up studies were conducted in a cohort of randomized clinical trial of nutrition interventions during pregnancy (the MINIMat trial). Overall, 1208 and 1697 children were followed-up for asthma at 4.5 and 10 years, respectively. Anthropometric measurements were obtained at various intervals from birth to 10 years of age. Ever asthma was identified using the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) questionnaire.
Results showed that SGA was significantly associated with increased risk of ever asthma at 4.5 and 10 years after adjusting for sex, body mass index, socioeconomic status, family history of asthma, gestational age at birth, mother’s parity, mother’s age at birth and intervention trial arm [odds ratio (OR)=1.97 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.34–2.90) and 1.86 (95% CI: 1.18–2.72)]. For the postnatal effect of undernutrition, stunting at 1 and 2 years was significantly associated with ever asthma at 4.5 and 10 years [1 year: OR=1.77 (95% CI: 1.22–2.57) and OR=1.72 (95% CI: 1.16–2.56), 2 years: OR=1.49 (95% CI: 1.06–2.10) and OR=1.41 (95% CI: 1.02–1.96)].
In conclusion, SGA and undernutrition during infancy has an influence on childhood asthma among children in Bangladesh, indicating the need for nutritional interventions early in life.