Background: It was suggested that gastric colonization with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) was associated with suboptimal nutrition and growth in childhood. Furthermore, several studies indicated a relationship between H. pylori colonization and alterations in the circulating levels of growth-related molecules (GRM). Accordingly, in this study, we investigate the effect of H. pylori infection on GRMs and on the growth of healthy school children, taking into consideration the effect of their economic status (ES) and anthropometric indices of their parents.
Methods: To acquire sociodemographic and anthropometric nutritional parameters and to detect H. pylori-specific serum IgG antibodies and growth-related molecules, we evaluated a total of 473 children attending four different primary and secondary schools in Istanbul. Subsequently, we assessed the effect of H. pylori on growth-related parameters (weight for age SDS, height for age SDS, BMI SDS, TSF, and waist-to-hip ratio) and on GRMs (leptin, ghrelin, and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)), controlling for age, gender, family income, household crowding (HC), breastfeeding, maternal and paternal BMI SDS, and midparental height SDS with complex statistical models.
Results: Of the 473 children (275 F/198 M, age 6–15 years; mean: 10.3 ± 0.1 years), 161 (34%) were H. pylori-positive. The prevalence of H. pylori was significantly higher in lower economic status (ES) groups, in children living in crowded houses, and in older age groups. Using simple statistical models, we did not find any significant associations between H. pylori infection and the growth parameters. However, in complex models for height for age SDS and for weight for age SDS, there was a significant interaction between H. pylori infection status and ES. Whereas in H. pylori-positive subjects, mid-income family children were both taller and heavier than the low-income group, there was no such an association in H. pylori-negative subjects. Among biochemical parameters, only ghrelin levels were associated with H. pylori infection in all models. Leptin levels were associated with HC in girls, whereas none of the parameters was significantly associated with leptin levels in boys. For IGF-1 levels, for boys, age and maternal BMI, and for girls, age and HC were significantly associated with IGF-1 levels.
Conclusion: We suggest that H. pylori may impair growth significantly only in susceptible children where unfavorable socioeconomic conditions facilitate its action, probably through mechanisms, at least in part, involving growth-related molecules.