Fat mass and lipid profile in young adults born preterm

P E Breukhoven, G F Kerkhof, R H Willemsen, A C S Hokken-Koelega
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2012, 97 (4): 1294-302

CONTEXT: Associations between small size at birth and abnormal cardiovascular parameters in later life have been reported. It is, however, unknown whether the effect of a small size at birth on cardiovascular risk factors in later life is due to a small size for gestational age or due to prematurity. Due to advances in neonatal care, survival of preterm infants has significantly improved, and nowadays an increasing number of these children reach adulthood. It is, therefore, of increasing importance to assess the long-term effect of prematurity on determinants for cardiovascular disease.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to assess the long-term effects of gestational age and particularly preterm birth on lipid levels and fat mass in early adulthood.

DESIGN AND PATIENTS: A cross-sectional study was conducted with 455 healthy subjects, aged 18 to 24 yr; 167 preterm subjects were compared with 288 full-term subjects.

OUTCOME MEASURE: Total fat mass, trunk fat mass, and limb fat mass were determined by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Furthermore, fasting lipid levels (total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, triglyceride, apolipoprotein B, lipoprotein a, high-density lipoprotein, and apolipoprotein A-I) were measured.

RESULTS: Preterm subjects had a significantly higher percentage of total fat mass, trunk fat mass, and limb fat mass than subjects born term. Furthermore, preterm subjects had significantly lower serum lipoprotein a levels and higher apolipoprotein A-I levels than term subjects. Multiple linear regression analyses to assess the association between gestational age and fat mass and lipid levels showed similar results.

CONCLUSION: In our cohort of 455 young adults, preterm birth was associated with more total fat mass, trunk fat, and limb fat mass but a relatively favorable lipid profile.

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