June 23, 2006

Low birth weight kids prone to gain fat early

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who are born small
show "catch-up" weight gain up to 2 years of age, then exhibit
a "dramatic transition" to having more body and belly fat,
European researchers report.

This tendency is accompanied by a risk of developing
resistance to the effects of the blood sugar regulating hormone
insulin by age 4, suggesting an increased likelihood of
diabetes down the road.

"Understanding the mechanisms underlying this
predisposition to adverse future health could lead to specific
preventive interventions during early childhood," Dr. Lourdes
Ibanez of the Hospital Sant Joan de Deu at the University of
Barcelona and colleagues write in the Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism.

While low birth weight followed by rapid catch-up weight
gain has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and heart
disease, the researchers note, the timing of this risk-boosting
weight gain has not been clear.

To investigate, the researchers followed 29
small-for-gestational-age children and 22 children of normal
birth weight, evaluating their body composition and insulin
sensitivity at ages 2, 3 and 4 years.

The body composition of the two groups was identical at age
2, the researchers report, but between age 2 and 4 increases in
body fat and abdominal fat were "strikingly higher" in the low
birth weight kids.

Further analysis found weight gain in the first 2 years of
life was strongly associated with the amount of total and belly
fat gained up to age 4.

The low birth weight children also showed a shift from
insulin sensitivity to resistance.

Preventing excessive weight gain in infancy could reduce
the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in low birth
weight children, the researchers note, while a better
understanding of how this weight gain contributes to disease
risk could help in the development of more specific prevention

However, the researchers add, "future intervention studies
are needed before translating such observations into public
health messages."

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,
June 2006.