Relationship between Birth Weight, Early Growth Rate, and Body Composition in 5- to 7-Year-Old Children


Programing of body composition during intrauterine growth may contribute to the higher risk for cardio-metabolic disease in individuals born small or large for gestational age (SGA, LGA). Compensations of intrauterine growth by catch-up or catch-down postnatal growth may lead to adverse consequences like a thin-fat phenotype.


The impact of (i) birth weight as well as (ii) the interaction between birth weight and catch-up or catch-down growth during the first 2 years of life on fat-free mass index (FFMI) and fat mass index (FMI) in 3,204 5-7-year-old children were investigated using Hattori's body composition chart. Body composition results were compared to appropriate for gestational age (AGA) birth weight with the same body mass index (BMI).


In total, 299 children at age 5-7 years were categorized as SGA, 2,583 as AGA, and 322 as LGA. When compared to AGA-children, BMI at 5-7 years of age was higher in LGA-children (15.5 vs. 16.2 kg/m2; p < 0.001) but not different in SGA-children. Compared to AGA with the same BMI, LGA was associated with higher FMI and a lower FFMI in 5-7-year-old girls. This phenotype was also seen for both sexes with catch-down growth during the first 2 years of life whereas catch-up growth prevented the higher FMI and lower FFMI per BMI.


LGA with a compensatory catch-down postnatal growth may be a risk factor for the development of disproportionate gain in fat over lean mass whereas SGA with a catch-down postnatal growth seems to favor the subsequent accretion of lean over fat mass. A higher propensity of lean mass accretion during postnatal growth in boys compared to girls explains sex differences in these phenotypes.



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