Undernutrition in in early life and influence on adolescent body composition

Undernutrition in early life and body composition on reaching adolescence in males.
Gigante et al, British Journal of Nutrition 2007, 97, 949-954
In middle- and high-income countries there is an epidemic of excess weight and obesity. This has attracted a number of studies to determine the early determinants of adult size. One possibility is that individuals who have suffered under nutrition in early life, followed by Western-type diets might be at risk of overweight and chronic disease.
The association between stunting and overweight in children has been shown in a cross-sectional study in four countries in nutritional transition (Russia. Brazil. South Africa and China). The risk of being overweight for a stunted child ranged from 1-7 to 7-8. In a review of early nutrition and later-life, adiposity and high birth weight was associated with subsequent obesity, whereas the evidence for poor nutrition in early life as a risk factor for increased fatness later in life was inconclusive. In a more recent review, the increase in weight or BMI and rapid growth during infancy were associated with obesity in childhood and adulthood.
In Brazil, stunted boys accumulated more body fat and gained less lean mass than non-stunted boys, and stunted girls showed a significantly higher percentage of fat mass at the end of follow-up, whereas non-stunted girls showed no significant differences in the percentage of fat mass over time
In this study in British Journal of Nutrition ( Gigante et al 2007, 97, 949-954 ) a cohort of boys aged 18 years was studied in Pelotas. a city in Southern Brazil since their birth. The aim of the present analysis was to study the associations between stunting, wasting and underweight at 2 and 4 years of age, and the body composition of male adolescents. This is part of a long term study of boys identified at birth. It is note worthy that the population are boys. That 5% of the group died and those who were poor, with low birth weight and malnourished were most at risk.
The conclusions of this study which included body composition indices was that under nutrition in early life is not a risk facto for over weight or obesity. These boys had lower fat, lean and body mass indices.
The results suggest that under nutrition is not a risk factor for overweight and obesity in later life population and may partially protect against fatness in adolescence.
This is a remarkable study and illustrated the merit of long term studies.

Martin Eastwood
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