Dr. Rae-Chi Huang of the University of Western Australia in Perth and colleagues examined 1,053 17-year-olds from an Australian birth study. Follow-up of study participants took place at eight intervals between ages 1-17.
In addition to birth weight and body mass index, the researchers took measurements of blood pressure and levels of insulin, blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol. The 17-year-old girls with the greater waist circumference, triglycerides, insulin and lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol -- the "good" cholesterol -- were also heavier from birth with consistently higher BMI thereafter.
In contrast, birth weight had no statistical impact on metabolic risk factors in males, the study said.
"What happens to a baby in the womb affects future heart disease and diabetes risk when the child grows up," Huang, the study author, said in a statement. "We found that female babies are particularly prone to this increased risk, and females who are at high risk of obesity and diabetes-related conditions at age 17 are showing increased obesity as early as 12 months of age."
The study was accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.