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Association between infant nutrition and anthropometry, and pre-pubertal body composition in urban South African children

  • J. Kagura (a1), A. B. B. Feeley (a1), L. K. Micklesfield (a2), J. M. Pettifor (a1) and S. A. Norris (a1)...


Early life nutrition and growth are related to subsequent obesity risk in high-income countries. We investigated the association between nutrition and growth during infancy, and body composition at 10 years of age in 140 children selected from the Bone Health sub-study of the Birth-to-Twenty cohort from Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. Infant feeding and dietary data were collected during the first 12 months, and weight and height were measured at 1 and 2 years of age. At 10 years, anthropometry and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)-derived body composition were measured. Regression models were used to determine associations between independent and dependent variables at the 1% level of significance. A one z-score increase in birth weight was associated with a 1051 g increase in lean mass and a 0.22 increase in body mass index (BMI) z-score at the age of 10 years. After adjusting for confounders, stunting at age 1 year was associated with lower fat mass only at 10 years of age while at age 2 years, it was associated with lower lean mass only. Being underweight at one year of age was significantly associated with lower lean mass only. Weight-for-age (WAZ) change in the second year of infancy was a predictor of fat mass and BMI only. Body fatness at 10 years of age was positively associated with infant WAZ change rather than height-for-age change. There were no significant associations between infant dietary patterns, wasting and being underweight at age 2 years and pre-pubertal body composition. Further studies are needed to assess whether these associations continue during adolescence as pubertal development may be an important modifier of these associations.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: J. Kagura, MRC/Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Developmental Pathways of Health Research Unit, University of Witwatersrand, 7 York Road, Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. (Email


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