The Thin But Fat Phenotype is Uncommon at Birth in Indian Babies

Authors : Kuriyan R, Naqvi S, Bhat KG, Ghosh S, Rao S, Preston T, Sachdev HS, Kurpad AV

Publication Year : 2019

Abstract :

Indian babies are hypothesized to be born thin but fat. This has not been confirmed with precise measurements at birth. If it is true, it could track into later life and confer risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Primarily, to accurately measure percentage of body fat (% BF) and body cell mass (BCM) in Indian babies with normal birth weight, compare them across different gestational ages and sex, and test the hypothesis of the thin but fat phenotype in Indian babies. Secondarily, to examine the relation between body weight and body fat in Indian babies.

Term newborns (n = 156) weighing greater than or equal to 2500 g, from middle socioeconomic status mothers were recruited in Bengaluru, India, and their anthropometry, % BF (air displacement plethysmography), and BCM (whole-body potassium counter) were measured. Maternal demography and anthropometry were recorded. The mean % BF and its dispersion were compared with earlier studies. The relation between newborn % BF and body weight was explored by regression analysis.

Mean birth weight was 3.0 ± 0.3 kg, with mean % BF 9.8 ± 3.5%, which was comparable to pooled estimates of % BF from published studies (9.8%; 95% CI: 9.7, 10.0; P > 0.05). Appropriate-for-gestational age (AGA) babies had higher % BF (1.8%) compared to small-for-gestational age (SGA) babies (P <  0.01). Mean % BCM of all babies at birth was 35.4 ± 10.5%; AGA babies had higher % BCM compared to SGA babies (7.0%, P <  0.05). Girls in comparison to boys had significantly higher % BF and lower % BCM. Body weight was positively associated with % BF.

Indian babies with normal birth weight did not demonstrate the thin but fat phenotype. Body weight and fat had positive correlation, such that SGA babies did not show a preservation of their % BF. These findings will have relevance in planning optimal interventions during early childhood to prevent NCDs risk in adult life.