Background: In-utero under-nutrition dramatically alters the development of adipose tissue, during the fetal and the neonatal period.
The aim of the study: To investigate whether adults born with intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR) show evidence of impaired adipose tissue development and leptin regulation.
Design: Serum leptin concentrations were measured in 26 healthy adults born with IUGR and 25 controls aged 24 y who have been studied previously, 3 y ago.
Results: The IUGR group demonstrated a significant increase of body mass index (BMI) in comparison to controls between 21 and 24 y of age (4.8+/-7.7%, P=0.004 vs 0.8+/-6.7%, P=0.70). Percentage of total body fat mass was significantly higher in IUGR-born subjects than in controls (27.2+/-7.6 vs 22.0+/-7.3%, P=0.02). Fasting insulin was significantly higher in the IUGR group (7.5+/-3.8 vs 5.3+/-2.3 miccroU/ml, P=0.03). Surprisingly, crude serum leptin concentrations did not significantly differ between the two groups. Moreover, adjusted means of serum leptin levels were significantly lower in IUGR-born subjects than in controls when corrected for body fat mass, gender and fasting insulin (11.3 vs 13.8 ng/ml, P=0.02).
Summary: Adults born with IUGR developed an excess of adipose tissue associated with relatively low serum leptin levels suggestive of an altered adipocyte function. Considering the close relationship between adipose tissue and insulin-sensitivity, these observations point to the potential implication of abnormal adipose tissue development in the long-term metabolic consequences associated with in-utero undernutrition.