In small-for-gestational-age infants positive associations between postnatal weight gain / growth and neurocognitive outcomes, adiposity, insulin resistance and blood pressure are confirmed via a wealth of observational studies, but not randomised controlled trials.
Infants that are small at birth tend to gain weight rapidly shortly after birth in a phase usually referred to as catch-up growth. Catch-up growth confers beneficial short-term effects in terms of survival, yet may also have effects on neuro-cognitive outcomes as well as metabolic health in the long-term. The systematic review by Castanys-Muñoz et al. 2017 focusses on small-for-gestational-age infants and shows that evidence from randomised controlled trials for such long-term effects is limited with the speed of catch-up growth being related to an increased fat mass, lean mass and blood pressure later on in life. The evidence from observational studies, however, clearly shows that faster catch-up growth in small-for-gestational-age infants leads to better neurocognitive outcomes, yet also worse metabolic health indicated from increased weight, insulin resistance and blood pressure in later life.
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