Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: Given the importance of infancy for establishing growth trajectories, with later-life health consequences, we investigated longitudinal body composition among infants from six economically and ethnically diverse countries.
Methods: We recruited mother-infant dyads using the WHO Multicenter Growth Reference Study criteria. We measured fat-free mass (FFM) in 1393 (49% female) infants from birth to 6 months of age (Australia, India, and South Africa; n = 468), 3-24 months of age (Brazil, Pakistan, South Africa, and Sri Lanka; n = 925), and derived fat mass (FM), fat mass index (FMI), and fat-free mass index (FFMI). Height-for-age (HAZ), weight-for-age (WAZ), and weight-for-length (WHZ) Z-scores were computed. Sex differences were assessed using a t-test, and country differences using a one-way analysis of covariance. We further compared subsamples of children with average (-0.25 > HAZ < +0.25), below-average (≤-0.25) and above-average (≥+0.25) HAZ.
Results: HAZ performed well between 0 and 6 months, but less so between 3 and 24 months. The stunting prevalence peaked at 10.3% for boys and 7.8% for girls, at 24 months. By 24 months, girls had greater FMI (10%) than boys. There were significant differences in FFM (both sexes in all countries) and FM (Brazilian boys, Pakistani and South African girls) by 24 months of age between infants with average, above-average, and below-average HAZ.
Conclusion: In a multi-country sample representing more ideal maternal conditions, body composition was heterogeneous even among infants who exhibited ideal length. Having a mean HAZ close to the median of the WHO standard for length reduced FFM between-country heterogeneity but not FM, suggesting that other factors may influence adiposity.


Volume, issue and pagination are not provided by the author/publisher

Publication (Name of Journal)

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition