Long-Term Impact of GH Treatment during Childhood on Body Composition and Fat Distribution in Young Adults Born SGA

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GH treatment of short children born small for gestational age (SGA) results in a decline in fat mass (FM) and an increase in lean body mass (LBM). It is, however, unknown whether these changes persist into adulthood.


Our objective was to assess the long-term impact of GH treatment during childhood on body composition and fat distribution.

Patients and Design:

A total of 377 young adults participated in this cross-sectional study: 59 previously GH-treated young SGA adults compared to 52 untreated SGA adults with short stature (SGA-S), 161 SGA adults with spontaneous catch-up growth (SGA-CU), and 105 healthy normal-statured controls born appropriate for gestational age (AGA).

Outcome Measures:

Body composition and fat distribution were determined by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.


Mean (SD) duration of GH treatment was 7.7 (2.4) yr and period after discontinuation 6.8 (1.8) yr. FM, fat distribution, and LBM of GH-treated SGA adults were not significantly different from that of untreated SGA-S adults. GH-treated SGA adults also had a similar FM and fat distribution as SGA-CU adults but a lower LBM. All SGA subgroups had a lower LBM and tended to have a higher FM than healthy AGA controls.


Body composition and fat distribution of previously GH-treated SGA adults was similar to that of untreated SGA-S adults. GH-induced catch-up growth has no unfavorable effect on FM and fat distribution compared with spontaneous catch-up growth. However, our study shows that SGA adults in general may have a different body composition than healthy AGA controls.

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