Dr May-Bente Bengston and colleagues from Norway assessed 3334 twin pairs with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Of these, 1250 were identical.
The twins completed a comprehensive questionnaire about their health, including whether they had ever had IBS.
The investigative team then matched this information with weight at birth, supplied by the national twin registry.
The team divided the information from the registry into 4 groups, ranging from less than 1500g to more than 2500g.
A healthy birthweight is considered to be above 2500g.
The rate of IBS across the entire sample was 5%, about 1 in 20.
There was a significant gender difference.
| Only 1 in 4 with IBS symptoms at some point in their lives were symptom free|
The investigators found that the rate in men was 3%, while that in women was 7%.
There was little difference, however, in the average age of onset between the 2 sexes.
The team noted that the first signs of the condition appeared at the age of 18 in men, and a year earlier in women.
Only 1 in 4 of those who reported IBS symptoms at some point in their lives were symptom free at the time of the survey.
The investigators observed that the average duration of their symptoms was more than 5 years.
The likelihood of IBS was stronger among the identical twins, suggesting that genetic factors do play a part.
Dr Bengston's team concludes, “The risk of the condition was 3 times greater among those whose birthweights were below 1500g as it was among those weighing more than 2500g at birth.”
“And it was higher in the lower weight baby of the twin pair.”
“The age at which symptoms started also seemed to be associated with birthweight.”
“Several chronic diseases have been linked to low birthweight.”
“The healthy development of the digestive system, which is not complete at birth, could be hindered by insufficient fetal growth.”