• Metabolic syndrome;
  • Prematurity;
  • Waist circumference;
  • Waist-to-height ratio


Aim:  To investigate the development of waist circumference (WC) in preschool children born preterm compared with a population-based reference.

Background:  Children born preterm are reported to be insulin resistant, despite being lean during early childhood. We hypothesize that the mechanism is through increased visceral adiposity.

Methods:  Data from 4446 preschool children (2169 girls/2277 boys) born in 2001–2006 from a population-based study were compared with longitudinal measurements of body mass index (BMI) and WC from a cohort of 152 children (64 girls/88 boys) born moderately preterm in 2002–2004 (gestational age, 32–37 weeks).

Results:  In the preterm children, the mean WC was 2.8 cm larger compared with the reference group (p < 0.001) at 2 years of age but not at 5 years of age. There was no significant difference in the mean BMI at 2 years of age. The preterm group was significantly leaner at 5 years of age, with a mean BMI of 15.13 compared with 15.98 in the reference group (p < 0.001).

Conclusion:  Children born moderately preterm present as lean during early childhood but have an increased waist circumference in infancy, pointing towards a change in fat distribution with more abdominal fat. This may have implications for their metabolic status.