Body composition from birth to 2 years

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Providing all infants with the best start to life is a universal but challenging goal for the global community. Historically, the size and shape of infants, quantified by anthropometry and commencing with birthweight, has been the common yardstick for physical growth and development. Anthropometry has long been considered a proxy for nutritional status during infancy when, under ideal circumstances, changes in size and shape are most rapid. Developed from data collected in the Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS), WHO Child Growth Standards for healthy infants and children have been widely accepted and progressively adopted. In contrast, and somewhat surprisingly, much less is understood about the 'quality' of growth as reflected by body composition during infancy. Recent advances in body composition assessment, including the more widespread use of air displacement plethysmography (ADP) across the first months of life, have contributed to a progressive increase in our knowledge and understanding of growth and development. Along with stable isotope approaches, most commonly the deuterium dilution (DD) technique, the criterion measure of total body water (TBW), our ability to quantify lean and fat tissue using a two-compartment model, has been greatly enhanced. However, until now, global reference charts for the body composition of healthy infants have been lacking. This paper details some of the historical challenges associated with the assessment of body composition across the first two years of life, and references the logical next steps in growth assessments, including reference charts


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Publication (Name of Journal)

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition