Effect of preterm birth and birth weight or intrauterine growth on eating behaviour at 2 years of age

Preterm infants often suffer from dietary difficulties during early childhood. In order to identify the maternal and neonatal factors that could explain this phenomenon, the eating behaviour of preterm infants  from the POLYNUCA cohort was compared to that of full term infants from the OPALINE cohort at 2 years of age.

Enfant mangeant un yaourt.. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe
Updated on 06/27/2013
Published on 06/21/2013

Infants from the POLYNUCA cohort spent several weeks in the neonatology intensive care unit of Nantes hospital, which made it possible to collect data on prenancy, birth, medical care, early nutrition as well as growth parameters until the age of two.  The OPALINE cohort studies how early food experience influences long term eating behaviour. Consumption data are collected from the first trimester of pregnancy until the age of two.

In this study, parents were requested to fill in questionnaires on the motivation of infants for food, food neophobia and selectivity as well as consumtion frequency and dietary preferences.

The results of these questionnaires involving 234 preterm infants and 245 full term infants have shown that preterm infants have less appetite and enjoyment for food. Their food is less varied and they eat less fruit.

Preterm infants (less than 30 weeks of gestation) are more likely to develop dietary difficulties than full term infants but the effect is associated with slow intrauterine growth rather than with the gestational age at birth. Dietary difficulties are more frequent in girls and  in children from mothers with a poor educational background. The body mass index and the age of the mother as well as breast feeding have no incidence. It would now be interesting to study the long term consequences of these early dietary difficulties on growth, metabolism and health.

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The results of this study were published :

Migraine A, Nicklaus S, Parnet P, Lange C, Monnery-Patris S, Des Robert C, Darmaun D, Flamant C, Amarger V, Rozé JC.
Effect of preterm birth and birth weight on eating behavior at 2 y of age.
 Am J Clin Nutr 2013 97: 6 1270-1277.

Valérie Amarger, one of the authors, presents the results in a video posted on scivee.

About the units

The study was carried out by the "Physiology of nutritional adaptations" unit in Nantes, which studies the long term effects of perinatal nutrition on key organs, such as gut and brain, and the Centre for Taste and Feeding behaviour in Dijon, which studies the early development of food preferences and eating behaviour.