THURSDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight female babies are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adulthood, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at more than 1,000 17-year-olds in Australia who had been followed since birth. The goal was to examine whether birth weight and body fat distribution in early childhood was associated with future health risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.

The study found that teen girls with larger waist circumference, higher levels of insulin and triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood), and lower levels of "good" HDL cholesterol were heavier from birth than other girls.

Birth weight and body fat distribution in early childhood seemed to have no impact on these risk factors in males, the authors noted.

The study will be published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"What happens to a baby in the womb affects future heart disease and diabetes risk when the child grows up," lead author Dr. Rae-Chi Huang of the University of Western Australia in Perth, said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.

"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," Huang said.

Huang said the findings are important because there are increasing rates of obesity and gestational diabetes among pregnant women in Western nations. This means a rise in the number of overweight female babies.

"Our results can be applied to public health messages targeting both maternal health and measures in early infancy regarding the prevention of childhood obesity and its consequences," Huang said.

Although the study showed an association between early obesity and increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and weight.