ELBW survivors in early adulthood have higher hepatic, pancreatic and subcutaneous fat
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Premature birth in conjunction with extremely low birth weight (<1 kg, ELBW) is associated with insulin resistance and increased cardiometabolic health risk compared to birth at full term with normal birth weight (NBW). However, little is known regarding the biologic mediators of these effects. Abdominal and ectopic lipid accumulation is linked to insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, yet whether ELBW survivors are predisposed to aberrant lipid deposition in adulthood is unknown. We used magnetic resonance imaging in a cohort of 16 NBW and 29 ELBW participants to determine if ELBW survivors have differences in pancreatic, hepatic, subcutaneous and visceral fat distribution compared to NBW participants. ELBW individuals had a higher proportion of liver and pancreatic fat compared to NBW subjects (P < 0.05). Abdominal subcutaneous fat, but not visceral fat, area was higher in ELBW survivors compared to NBW individuals. In multivariate analyses, tissue fat measures were most highly related to BMI and sex, but not preterm birth. This work highlights that fat deposition is enhanced in adults born preterm and suggests that ectopic fat accretion driven by their relatively greater adiposity may contribute to the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction seen in ELBW survivors.
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