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Study: Newborn fat mass linked to childhood obesity :

August 13, 2020

Newborns with a large percentage of fat mass are more likely to be overweight or obese at ages 2-6 years, according to a new study.

Researchers studied the growth of more than 900 children in Colorado and focused on adiposity, unlike previous studies that centered on birth weight. Fat mass was measured using air displacement plethysmography within 72 hours after delivery.

The neonates in the study had a mean birthweight of 2,380 grams and a mean percent of fat mass of 9.1% + 4%, according to “Neonatal Adiposity and Childhood Obesity,” (Moore BF, et al. Pediatrics. Aug. 13, 2020,

An analysis of medical records showed that for every standard deviation increase in newborn fat mass, children ages 2-6 years had a 0.12 higher body mass index (BMI). Neonatal adiposity continued to be linked to BMI even after adjusting for race, maternal education and duration of exclusive breastfeeding.

Researchers also found a larger proportion of children had overweight or obesity when they had higher than average fat mass as newborns. For example, when neonatal adiposity was one standard deviation below the mean, about 3% of 5- to 6-year-olds had overweight or obesity. Among children born with adiposity one standard deviation above the mean, 23% had overweight or obesity.

“The implications of our findings are important because even small increases in childhood percentiles could significantly contribute to early systemic inflammation and subsequent cardiometabolic diseases,” authors wrote.

They said their findings may be helpful to researchers studying prenatal interventions and to pediatricians identifying neonates at risk of childhood overweight or obesity.

Authors of a related commentary said large, longitudinal studies will need to be done on obesity prevention before and after birth, and they called for cooperation between obstetrics and pediatrics.

“Childhood obesity prevention requires a collaborative transdisciplinary approach in both risk factor research and intervention design,” they wrote. “Such interventions may only be effective in coordination with robust supports for families and children across the life course, from preconception through adolescence.”

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