Fat and Fat-Free Mass of Preterm and Term Infants from Birth to Six Months: A Review of Current Evidence Academic Article uri icon

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  • To optimize infant nutrition, the nature of weight gain must be analyzed. This study aims to review publications and develop growth charts for fat and fat-free mass for preterm and term infants. Body composition data measured by air displacement plethysmography (ADP) and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in preterm and term infants until six months corrected age were abstracted from publications (31 December 1990 to 30 April 2019). Age-specific percentiles were calculated. ADP measurements were used in 110 studies (2855 preterm and 22,410 term infants), and DXA was used in 28 studies (1147 preterm and 3542 term infants). At term age, preterm infants had higher percent-fat than term-born infants (16% vs. 11%, p < 0.001). At 52 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA), both reached similar percent-fat (24% vs. 25%). In contrast, at term age, preterm infants had less fat-free mass (2500 g vs. 2900 g) by 400 g. This difference decreased to 250 g by 52 weeks, and to 100 g at 60 weeks PMA (5000 g vs. 5100 g). DXA fat-free mass data were comparable with ADP. However, median percent-fat was up to 5% higher with DXA measurements compared with ADP with PMA > 50 weeks. There are methodological differences between ADP and DXA measures for infants with higher fat mass. The cause of higher fat mass in preterm infants at term age needs further investigation.


  • Hamatschek, Constanze
  • Yousuf, Efrah I
  • Möllers, Lea Sophie
  • So, Hon Yiu
  • Morrison, Katherine
  • Fusch, Christoph
  • Rochow, Niels

publication date

  • January 21, 2020