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Pediatr Res. 2006 Sep;60(3):345-8. Epub 2006 Jul 20.

Determinants of adiposity during preweaning postnatal growth in appropriately grown and growth-restricted term infants.

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Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London SW10 9NH, UK.


The distribution and quantity of adipose tissue are markers of morbidity risk in children and adults. Poor intrauterine growth and accelerated postnatal growth are believed to add to these risks. The aim of this study was to assess adipose tissue content and distribution at birth and 6 wk in relation to intrauterine growth restriction, postnatal growth, and infant diet. We measured weight, length, and head circumference and adipose content and distribution using magnetic resonance imaging at 6 wk of age in appropriately grown for gestational age (AGA) and growth-restricted (GR) infants and compared this with birth data. By 6 wk, GR infants showed complete catch-up in comparison to AGA infants in relation to head growth and adiposity. Catch-up in length and weight was not complete. Accelerated linear growth, but not accelerated weight gain, was associated with a highly significant increase in adiposity (r = 0.57, p = 0.001) regardless of AGA/GR status. The highest adiposity at 6 wk, allowing for baseline variables and linear growth, was seen in exclusively breast-fed GR infants (mean, 95% confidence interval: 33.5%, 29.51-37.5). Adipose tissue distribution remained constant and was unrelated to growth and diet. Reduced birth adiposity (B = -0.185, p = 0.003), but not low birth head size (B = 0.32, p = 0.093), was a significant predictor of accelerated postnatal head growth (R(2) = 0.29, adjusted R(2) = 0.23, p = 0.012). Increasing adiposity appears to be an inevitable accompaniment of accelerated linear growth. Low total adipose tissue quantity at birth appears to direct nutrition toward head growth. Adipose tissue may be involved in the signaling of catch-up growth.

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