Abdominal adipose tissue and liver fat imaging in very low birth weight adults born preterm: birth cohort with sibling-controls
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScientific Reports. 2022, 12 (1), . 10.1038/s41598-022-13936-1
Preterm birth at very low birth weight (VLBW, < 1500 g) is associated with an accumulation of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors from childhood at least to middle age. Small-scale studies suggest that this could partly be explained by increased visceral or ectopic fat. We performed magnetic resonance imaging on 78 adults born preterm at VLBW in Finland between 1978 and 1990 and 72 term same-sex siblings as controls, with a mean age of 29 years. We collected T1-weighted images from the abdomen, and magnetic resonance spectra from the liver, subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, and tibia. The adipose tissue volumes of VLBW adults did not differ from their term siblings when adjusting for age, sex, and maternal and perinatal factors. The mean differences were as follows: subcutaneous − 0.48% (95% CI − 14.8%, 16.3%), visceral 7.96% (95% CI − 10.4%, 30.1%), and total abdominal fat quantity 1.05% (95% CI − 13.7%, 18.4%). Hepatic triglyceride content was also similar. VLBW individuals displayed less unsaturation in subcutaneous adipose tissue (− 4.74%, 95% CI − 9.2%, − 0.1%) but not in tibial bone marrow (1.68%, 95% CI − 1.86%, 5.35%). VLBW adults displayed similar adipose tissue volumes and hepatic triglyceride content as their term siblings. Previously reported differences could thus partly be due to genetic or environmental characteristics shared between siblings. The VLBW group displayed less unsaturation in subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, suggesting differences in its metabolic activity and energy storage.