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J Pediatr. 2016 Jun;173:108-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Apr 4.

Greater Early Gains in Fat-Free Mass, but Not Fat Mass, Are Associated with Improved Neurodevelopment at 1 Year Corrected Age for Prematurity in Very Low Birth Weight Preterm Infants.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. Electronic address:
Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.
Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.



This work investigates the relationship between early body composition changes and neurodevelopment at 1 year age corrected for prematurity (CA).


A prospective, longitudinal study to measure body composition weekly in 34 very low birth weight preterm infants using air displacement plethysmography, beginning when infants stabilized after birth until discharge. Neurodevelopmental testing (Bayley Scales of Infant Development-III) was performed at 12 months CA. Linear mixed effects models were used to obtain inpatient subject-specific changes in fat-free mass (FFM) and fat mass (FM), which were then used as predictors of Bayley subscale scores in subsequent linear regression models, adjusting for potential confounders. Protein and energy provision were calculated for the first week of life.


Greater FFM gains while inpatient were associated with improved cognitive and motor scores at 12 months CA (P = .002 for both). These relationships remained significant when adjusting for birth weight, gestational age, and intraventricular hemorrhage (P ≤ .05 for both). Similar analysis was performed for FM gains without significant findings. Increased provision of protein and calories during the first week of life was positively associated with FFM gains (P ≤ .01 for both), but not FM gains (P ≥ .2 for both), throughout hospitalization.


Increased FFM gains, but not FM gains, during hospitalization are associated with improved neurodevelopment at 12 months CA. As early FM gains may be associated with long-term risk, more research is needed to develop strategies that optimize FFM gains while minimizing FM gains in very low birth weight preterm infants.


body composition; nutrition

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