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Nutrients. 2017 Nov 24;9(12). pii: E1282. doi: 10.3390/nu9121282.

Neonatal Nutrition Predicts Energy Balance in Young Adults Born Preterm at Very Low Birth Weight.

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Department of Public Health Solutions, National Institute for Health and Welfare, FI-00271 Helsinki, Finland
Institute for Health Sciences, University of Oulu, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
Children’s Hospital, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, FI-00290 Helsinki, Finland
Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3T 1E2, Canada
Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland
Folkhälsan Research Center, FI-00280 Helsinki, Finland
PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland


Epidemiological studies and animal models suggest that early postnatal nutrition and growth can influence adult health. However, few human studies have objective recordings of early nutrient intake. We studied whether nutrient intake and growth during the first 9 weeks after preterm birth with very low birth weight (VLBW, <1500 g) predict total energy intake, resting energy expenditure (REE), physical activity and food preferences in young adulthood. We collected daily nutritional intakes and weights during the initial hospital stay from hospital records for 127 unimpaired VLBW participants. At an average age 22.5 years, they completed a three-day food record and a physical activity questionnaire and underwent measurements of body composition (dual X-ray absorptiometry; n = 115 with adequate data) and REE (n = 92 with adequate data). We used linear regression and path analysis to investigate associations between neonatal nutrient intake and adult outcomes. Higher energy, protein and fat intakes during the first three weeks of life predicted lower relative (=per unit lean body mass) energy intake and relative REE in adulthood, independent of other pre- and neonatal factors. In path analysis, total effects of early nutrition and growth on relative energy intake were mostly explained by direct effects of early life nutrition. A path mediated by early growth reached statistical significance only for protein intake. There were no associations of neonatal intakes with physical activity or food preferences in adulthood. As a conclusion, higher intake of energy and nutrients during first three weeks of life of VLBW infants predicts energy balance after 20 years. This association is partly mediated through postnatal growth.


energy expenditure; energy intake; exercise; food intake; neonatal nutrition; premature; preterm; programming; very low birth weight

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