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Early life exposures and growth patterns may affect long-term risk of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD). We followed up in adolescence two Zambian cohorts (n 322) recruited in infancy to investigate how two early exposures – maternal HIV exposure without HIV infection (HEU) and early growth profile – were associated with later anthropometry, body composition, blood lipids, Hb and HbA1c, blood pressure and grip strength. Although in analyses controlled for age and sex, HEU children were thinner, but not shorter, than HIV-unexposed, uninfected (HUU) children, with further control for socio-demographic factors, these differences were not significant. HEU children had higher HDL-cholesterol than HUU children and marginally lower HbA1c but no other biochemical or clinical differences. We identified three early growth profiles – adequate growth, declining and malnourished – which tracked into adolescence when differences in anthropometry and body fat were still seen. In adolescence, the early malnourished group, compared with the adequate group, had lower blood TAG and higher HDL, lower grip strength (difference: −1·87 kg, 95 % CI −3·47, −0·27; P = 0·02) and higher HbA1c (difference: 0·5 %, 95 % CI 0·2, 0·9; P = 0·005). Lower grip strength and higher HbA1c suggest the early malnourished children could be at increased risk of NCD in later life. Including early growth profile in analyses of HIV exposure reduced the associations between HIV and outcomes. The results suggest that perinatal HIV exposure may have no long-term effects unless accompanied by poor early growth. Reducing the risk of young child malnutrition may lessen children’s risk of later NCD.
There is limited information as to whether people who experience severe acute malnutrition (SAM) as young children are at increased risk of overweight, high body fat and associated chronic diseases in later life. We followed up, when aged 7–12 years, 100 Zambian children who were hospitalised for SAM before age 2 years and eighty-five neighbourhood controls who had never experienced SAM. We conducted detailed anthropometry, body composition assessment by bioelectrical impedance and deuterium dilution (D2O) and measured blood lipids, Hb and HbA1c. Groups were compared by linear regression following multiple imputation for missing variables. Children with prior SAM were slightly smaller than controls, but differences, controlling for age, sex, socio-economic status and HIV exposure or infection, were significant only for hip circumference, suprailiac skinfold and fat-free mass index by D2O. Blood lipids and HbA1c did not differ between groups, but Hb was lower by 7·8 (95 % CI 0·8, 14·7) g/l and systolic blood pressure was 3·4 (95 % CI 0·4, 6·4) mmHg higher among the prior SAM group. Both anaemia and high HbA1c were common among both groups, indicating a population at risk for the double burden of over- and undernutrition and associated infectious and chronic diseases. The prior SAM children may have been at slightly greater risk than the controls; this was of little clinical significance at this young age, but the children should be followed when older and chronic diseases manifest.