Altered body composition in preterm infants at hospital discharge

Richard J. Cooke, Ian Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Aim: To test the hypotheses that body size is reduced and body composition altered in preterm infants at hospital discharge. Methods: Preterm infants (≤34 weeks gestation, ≤1750 g at birth) were enrolled. Body weight, length and head circumference were converted to standard deviation or z-scores. Body composition was measured using dual emission X-ray absorptiometry. The results were analysed using standard statistics. Results: One hundred and forty-nine infants (birth weight = 1406 ± 248 g, gestation = 31 ± 1.7 weeks) were studied. Postmenstrual age at discharge was 37 ± 1.2 weeks. Z-scores for head circumference, weight and length differed (-0.1 ± 0.6 > -1.4 ± 0.6 > -1.9 ± 0.6; p < 0.0001). Global fat-free mass was less in study infants than the reference infant at the same weight (2062 < 2252 g; p < 0.0001) or gestation (2062 < 2667 g; p < 0.0001). Global fat mass was greater in study infants than the reference infant at the same weight (307 > 198 g, 13 > 8%) or gestation (307 > 273 g; 13 > 9%; p < 0.0001). Changes in central fat mass closely paralleled those in global fat mass (r2 = 0.76, p < 0.0001). Conclusion: Reduced linear growth and a reduced fat-free mass suggest that dietary protein needs were not met before discharge. A reduced fat-free mass coupled with an increased global and central fat mass echoes concerns about the development of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome X in these high-risk infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1269-1273
Number of pages5
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Body composition
  • Preterm infants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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