Infants who are born preterm are much lighter and shorter on reaching term-equivalent age than children born at term. This is common knowledge, but there is a deficit in understanding regarding the relation to body composition.
Researchers for Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), performed a study to bring more clarity to that relationship, conducting a systematic review to assess the body composition at the term-equivalent age of infants born preterm. Given the statistic that a staggering one in 10 children are born preterm, according to the BBC, a greater understanding of this matter and more clarity thereof are to be desired.
Researchers for the ambitious study combed the databases MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, HMIC, Web of Science, and CSA Conference Papers Index between 1947 and June of 2011, searching for studies that directly compared measures of body composition at term-equivalent age in preterm infants and infants that were carried to full term. Selective citation and reference searching were practiced to narrow the search. Data regarding body composition, anthropometry, and birth details were carefully collected from each article.
Out of eight total studies (of 733 infants) that fulfilled the study’s criteria, mean gestational age and weight at birth were 30.0 weeks and 1.18kg in the preterm group and 39.6 weeks and 3.41 kg in the term group. Preterm infants showed a greater percentage total body fat at term-equivalent age than those born full-term.
Researchers concluded that the body composition at term-equivalent age of preterm infants is different than that of infants carried to full term. Preterm infants have less lean tissue but similar fat mass. The results of this study show a need to research whether or not better nutrition can increase the lean tissue.
“The development and validation of improved methods for reliably assessing body composition in preterm infants early in life are priorities for understanding and improving their nutritional care,” concluded researchers.
The study highlighted need in this area of preterm care and laid the groundwork for a better understanding (and more research) regarding the body composition of preterm infants at term-equivalent age.