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Slow Early Growers Have More Muscle in Relation to Adult Activity: Evidence from Cebu, Philippines


Workman, Megan; McDade, Thomas W.; Adair, Linda S.; & Kuzawa, Christopher W. (2015). Slow Early Growers Have More Muscle in Relation to Adult Activity: Evidence from Cebu, Philippines. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69(12), 1350-1355. PMCID: PMC4575228


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Adult skeletal muscle mass (SMM) protects against type 2 diabetes, but little is known about its developmental antecedents. We examined whether pace of early weight gain predicted adult SMM in a birth cohort from Cebu City, Philippines. In addition, we examined whether increases in SMM associated with adult muscle-building exercise varied according to the early growth.
SUBJECTS/METHODS: Data came from 1472 participants of the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey. Weight was measured at birth and at 6-month intervals through the age of 24 months. Adult SMM was estimated from anthropometric measurements when participants were 20-22-years old. Interviews provided the information on adult exercise/lifestyle habits.
RESULTS: SMM (mean+/-s.d.) was 20.8+/-3.9 kg (men) and 13.6+/-3.4 kg (women). Faster early weight gain predicted a higher adult SMM. After adjustment for height and lifestyle factors, strongest associations with SMM were found for 6-12 months growth in men (beta=0.17, P=0.001) and for birth weight in women (beta=0.14, P=0.001). Individuals who had grown slowly displayed greater SMM in association with adult weightlifting, basketball playing and physically demanding forms of employment (men) or household chores (women).
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest heightened sensitivity of activity-induced muscle hypertrophy among the adults who were born light or who gained weight slowly as infants. Future research should test this finding by comparing responses of muscle mass to an intervention in slow vs fast early growers. Findings suggest that adults who display a reduced SMM following suboptimal early growth may be good candidates for new anti-diabetes interventions that promote muscle-building activities.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition


Workman, Megan
McDade, Thomas W.
Adair, Linda S.
Kuzawa, Christopher W.