We examined the effects of early life exposure to poor nutrition and infectious diseases on adult heart disease and diabetes using season of birth as an indicator to help disentangle the effects on health of early life exposure from effects associated with other childhood conditions.
Using data from 60- to 74-year-old Puerto Ricans who lived in rural areas during childhood (n = 1,457), we estimated the effects of seasonal exposure during late gestation on the probability of diabetes and heart disease, controlling for adult obesity and other childhood conditions (health, socioeconomic status, knee height).
We found (a) strong associations between exposure and heart disease; (b) weaker associations between exposure and diabetes, although significant negative interaction effects between exposure and having a family member with diabetes suggest the possibility of either strong gene-environment or early adult-environment interactions; (c) virtually no attenuation of effects of self-reported childhood health with controls for exposure.
Timing of birth may reveal conditions experienced perinatally that affect adult heart disease and diabetes. The results suggest that examination of the effects of season of birth on these chronic conditions among older Puerto Rican adults and among older adults from similar populations deserves deeper scrutiny.