Background: Preterm birth is associated with abnormalities in growth, body composition, and metabolism during childhood, but adult data are scarce and none exist for their offspring. We therefore aimed to examine body composition and cardiovascular risk factors in adults born preterm and their children.
Methods: A cohort of 52 adults (aged 35.7 years, 54% female, 31 born preterm) and their term-born children (n=61, aged 8.0 years, 54% female, 60% from a preterm parent) were studied. Auxology and body composition (whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) were measured, and fasting blood samples taken for metabolic and hormonal assessments.
Results: Adults born preterm had greater abdominal adiposity, displaying more truncal fat (p=0.006) and higher android to gynoid fat ratio (p=0.004). Although women born preterm and at term were of similar weight and BMI, men born preterm (n=8) were on average 20 kg heavier (p=0.010) and of greater BMI (34.2 vs 28.4 kg/m(2); p=0.021) than men born at term (n=16). Adults born preterm also displayed a less favourable lipid profile, including lower HDL-C concentrations (p=0.007) and greater total cholesterol to HDL-C ratio (p=0.047). Children of parents born preterm tended to have more body fat than the children of parents born at term (21.3 vs 17.6%; p=0.055). Even after adjustment for mean parental BMI, children of parents born preterm had altered fat distribution, with more truncal fat (p=0.048) and greater android to gynoid fat ratio (p=0.009).
Conclusions: Adults born preterm, particularly men, have markedly increased fat mass and altered fat distribution. A similar increase in abdominal adiposity was observed in the term born offspring of parents born preterm, indicating that adverse outcomes associated with preterm birth may extend to the next generation.