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Body Composition Trajectories From Infancy to Preschool in Children Born Premature Versus Full-term

Scheurer, Johannah M.*; Zhang, Lei; Gray, Heather L.*; Weir, Katherine; Demerath, Ellen W.§; Ramel, Sara E.*

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: June 2017 - Volume 64 - Issue 6 - p e147–e153
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001494
Original Articles: Nutrition

Objectives: The aim of the study was to longitudinally characterize infancy to preschool body composition trajectories and the association of early fat and fat-free mass gains with preschool age body composition in children born premature versus full-term.

Methods: A cohort of appropriate-for-gestational age preterm (n = 20) and term (n = 51) infants were followed at 3 visits: “neonatal” visit 1 at 2 weeks of age for term and near term corrected age for preterm; “infancy” visit 2 at 3 to 4 months (preterm corrected age); “preschool” visit 3 at 4 years. Body composition via air displacement plethysmography and anthropometrics were measured at all visits. Tracking of infancy weight and body composition with preschool measurements was tested using Pearson partial correlation coefficients. Associations between serial body composition measurements were assessed using multiple linear regression.

Results: Early differences in body composition between premature (mean gestational age 31.9 weeks, mean birth weight 1843 g) and full-term (mean gestational age 39.8 weeks) infants were not present at preschool age. Visit 1 body composition was not correlated with preschool measurements in the preterm infants. Visit 2 measurements were correlated with preschool measures. Fat-free mass accretion from visit 1 to visit 2 was positively associated with preschool lean mass (β = 0.038, P = 0.049) in preterm children, whereas fat accretion was not associated with preschool body composition.

Conclusions: Children born prematurely and full-term have similar body composition at preschool age. For preterms infancy fat-free mass gains, and not adiposity gains, are positively associated with preschool fat-free mass; this may be associated with lower risk of later obesity and adverse metabolic outcomes.

*Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics

Biostatistical Design and Analysis Center

Medical School

§Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Johannah M. Scheurer, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, University of Minnesota, 2450 Riverside Ave, East Bldg, MB 630, Minneapolis, MN 55454 (e-mail:

Received 16 November, 2016

Accepted 8 December, 2016

Funding for the project was from the Benjamin Walker Hanson Fund of the University of Minnesota Foundation.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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© 2017 by European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,