Body composition and cognition in preschool-age children with congenital gastrointestinal anomalies

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3 Scopus citations


Background: Children with congenital gastrointestinal anomalies (CGIAs) experience multiple stressors while hospitalized in neonatal intensive care units during an essential time of growth and development. Early stress and inadequate nutrition are linked to altered growth patterns and later neurodevelopmental delays. In other at-risk populations, improved fat-free mass (FFM) accretion is associated with improved cognitive outcomes. Objective: To determine if body composition is associated with cognitive function in preschool-age children with CGIAs. Study design: An observational study examined body composition and cognition in 34 preschool-age children with CGIAs. Anthropometric measurements and body composition testing via air displacement plethysmography were obtained. Measurements were compared with a reference group of healthy, term-born children. Cognition was measured with the NIH Toolbox Early Childhood Cognition Battery. Linear regression was used to test the association of body composition with cognitive function. Results: Compared with the reference group, children with CGIAs had similar anthropometric measurements (weight, height, and body mass index z-scores) and body composition at preschool-age. Processing speed scores were lower than standardized means (p = 0.001). Increased FFM was associated with higher receptive vocabulary scores (p = 0.001), cognitive flexibility scores (p = 0.005), and general cognitive function scores (p = 0.05). Conclusions: At preschool-age, children with CGIAs have similar growth and body composition to their peers. In children with CGIAs, higher FFM was associated with higher cognitive scores. Closer tracking of body composition and interventions aimed at increasing FFM may improve long-term outcomes in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-10
Number of pages6
JournalEarly Human Development
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Body composition
  • Fat-free mass
  • Inflammation
  • Neonatal surgery
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Outcomes


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