King's College London

Research portal

Relation between body composition at birth and child development at 2 years of age: a prospective cohort study among Ethiopian children

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

M Abera, M Tesfaye, T Girma, C. Hanlon, G S Andersen, J C Wells, B Admassu, R Wibaek, H Friis, P Kæstel

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Early online date27 Sep 2017
Accepted/In press30 Jun 2017
E-pub ahead of print27 Sep 2017


King's Authors


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Birth weight (BW), independent of socioeconomic status, has been identified as a predictor for childhood cognitive development. However, it is not known whether this relation is related to low BW per se or particularly related to a deficit in fat mass (FM) or fat-free mass (FFM) at birth. This study therefore aimed at investigating the relation between body composition at birth and child development at 2 years of age.

SUBJECTS/METHODS: An Ethiopian birth cohort was followed up at 2 years. Body composition was measured within 48 h of birth using infant air-displacement plethysmography. Child development was assessed at 2 years of age using Denver developmental screening test. Associations between body composition at birth and development at 2 years of age were tested using linear regression analysis.

RESULTS: FFM but not FM at birth was positively associated with higher global developmental score at 2 years of age (β=2.48, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.17; 4.79) adjusted for neonatal, postnatal and parental characteristics. This association was attributable to the association with the language developmental domain (β=1.61, 95 CI 0.33; 2.90).

CONCLUSIONS: Among Ethiopian children, FFM at birth but not FM predicted better global and language development at 2 years of age. Higher FFM at birth might have exerted a positive effect on the growth and differentiation of the brain and neuronal circuits for better development. This study therefore highlights the need to improve mother's nutritional status during pregnancy in ways that stimulate fetal FFM growth.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication, 27 September 2017; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2017.129.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454