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Faster growth in infants born small

Press release issued: 25 November 2002

Media release
Faster growth in infants born small

Researchers from Bristol and Cambridge Universities have shown that faster growth in the first year of life is related to smaller size at birth. There is evidence that this rapid weight gain during infancy may lead to increased risks of obesity in later life.

The findings were announced by Pauline Emmett, from the "Children of the 90s" project and published in a prestigious International journal. This study based in Bristol, has monitored the health and development of over 14,000 children from pregnancy onwards. A ten per cent sub-group have been studied much more closely, including birth measurements and at least six monthly visits for weight and length checks until aged five years.

Dr Ken Ong and other childhood growth experts from Cambridge have worked with the Bristol team to analyze these data. Ken says, "It is well known that babies are smaller at birth if the mother smokes during pregnancy or if the child is the mother's first born. These smaller babies need to grow faster to catch-up with other larger infants". The study assessed whether rapid growth early on affected body size in later childhood.

Wide variations in growth rates were commonly seen during the first year of life. Children of smoking mothers were found to catch-up in length and weight by 12 months of age. First-born children who were thin at birth and caught-up rapidly in weight and overshot the weights of other children by 12 months, and they remained taller and heavier throughout the pre-school years. Other studies have shown that this early rapid growth could be linked to later obesity risks.

Pauline who is the Senior Nutritionist for ALSPAC says, "What babies are fed is also very important in determining how fast they grow. This study showed that the breast-fed babies grew slightly more slowly than the bottle-fed ones. The difference was still evident up to two-and-a-half years of age. This could be one way that breast feeding protects against obesity."

Children of the 90s is still following these children and so will continue to find out much more about the effects of early growth rates on later health.

Ong KKL, Preece MA, Emmett PM, the ALSPAC Study Team, Ahmed ML, Dunger DB. "Size at birth and early childhood growth in relation to maternal smoking, parity and infant breast feeding: longitudinal birth cohort study and analysis". Pediatric Research. 2002 Vol 52 p863-867.

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Copyright: 2002 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Monday, 25-Nov-2002 16:56:15 GMT

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