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Weight gain during nutritional rehabilitation post-childhood malnutrition may influence the associations between adulthood desaturases activity and anthro-cardiometabolic risk factors

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Backgrounds & Aims Childhood malnutrition is a major global health problem with long-term sequelae, including non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Mechanisms are unknown but may involve metabolic programming, resulting from “short-term” solutions to optimise survival by compromising non-priority organs. As key players in lipid metabolism, desaturases have been shown to be predictive of NCDs. We hypothesised that the association between specific desaturase activities and NCD risk determinants (including body composition, serum glucose, insulin levels, and blood pressure) are influenced by childhood post-malnutrition weight gain.

Methods 278 Afro-Caribbean adults with well-documented clinical history of severe malnutrition in childhood were studied. Extensive metabolic analyses including body composition (DXA), fasting serum glucose and lipidomics (n=101), and fasting serum insulin (n=83) were performed in malnutrition survivors and matched community controls (n=90). Established lipid ratios were used as proxies of desaturase activities: CE 16:1/CE 16:0 for stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD1), LysoPC 20:4/20:3 for fatty acid desaturase 1 (FADS1), and LysoPC 20:3/18:2 for FADS2.

Results Compared to community controls, adult malnutrition survivors (mean±SD) age 28.3±7.8 and BMI 23.6±5.2 had higher SCD1 and FADS1 activity, (B±SE) 0.07±0.02 and 0.7+0.08, respectively, but lower FADS2 activities (B±SE) -0.05±0.01, adjusted for sex and age (p<0.0005). SCD1 was positively associated with adult BMI and body fat percentage, and negatively associated with lean mass and height. Stratification based on weight gain during nutritional rehabilitation among malnutrition survivors might signal the potential associations between weight gain during that critical period, desaturase activities, and some of adult metabolic parameters, with the lowest tertiles (slowest catch-up weight gain) performing more similarly to controls.

Conclusions In adult survivors of early-life severe acute malnutrition, desaturase activity is associated with markers of NCD risk, especially adiposity. These associations seem to be strengthened by faster weight gain during nutritional rehabilitation.



Childhood malnutrition, Desaturase, Lipid biomarker, Metabolic risk, Non-communicable disease, Adult, Humans, Young Adult, Cardiometabolic Risk Factors, Noncommunicable Diseases, Malnutrition, Weight Gain, Insulins, Glucose

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Clinical Nutrition

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Medical Research Council (MR/V000802/1)