Long term consequences of low birthweight on postnatal growth, adiposity and brain weight at maturity in sheep

Samantha Louey, Megan L. Cock, Richard Harding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Low birth weight (LBW) as a result of restricted fetal growth increases the risk for later metabolic diseases and adiposity. However the relationship between LBW and postnatal growth and adult body composition has not been fully investigated. We have used sheep to determine the effects of LBW on postnatal growth and body composition at maturity. LBW was induced by twinning and placental embolization. At birth, LBW lambs were 38% lighter than controls (2.8 ± 0.2 vs 4.4 ± 0.3 kg, P<0.05), but had caught up in bodyweight by 8 weeks after birth. At ∼2.3 years, bodyweights were not different between groups, but there were reductions in absolute (-8%) and relative (-17%) brain weights of LBW sheep (P<0.05) compared to controls. X-ray absorptiometry showed that the mature LBW sheep, compared to controls, had greater amounts of lean muscle (38.1 ± 1.3 vs 35.3 ± 0.5 kg, P<0.05) and tended to have more body fat (12.2 ± 1.2 vs 9.6 ± 0.9 kg; P=0.1); at autopsy abdominal fat mass was greater in LBW sheep (3.06 ± 0.26 vs 2.20 ± 0.25 kg, P<0.05). Plasma leptin concentrations were not different between groups. We conclude that, in sheep, LBW is associated with early postnatal catch-up in body weight, but body composition is permanently altered such that, relative to controls, adiposity is increased and brain weight is decreased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Reproduction and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Adiposity
  • Birth weight
  • Body composition
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Leptin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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