MONDAY, May 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Boys who weigh less than 2 pounds at birth do not age as well as their normal-weight peers, according to a long-term study.
Canadian researchers have since 1977 followed an extremely low-weight infant (ELBW) group and their normal-weight counterparts.
When participants were in their thirties, the researchers compared the genes of 45-year-old ELBW babies with those of 47-year-olds with a normal birth weight.
After considering health issues that could affect the results, the researchers found that at least biologically, premature babies age faster than children born at the same time and were five years older than normal weights. This difference was not found in the girls.
“While it is unclear why accelerated biological aging is seen in ELBW men, this suggests that prenatal exposures play an important role in aging,” said the first author, Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience in Hamilton, Ontario.
His team noted that the rate of aging may be influenced by biological stresses in the uterus and then in the newborn’s intensive care unit.
Van Lieshout, himself an ELBW baby, said previous research found that ELBW boys are more susceptible to prenatal stress than ELBW girls.
“This certainly highlights the need to monitor the health of premature survivors throughout their lives and more research needs to be done,” he said in a university press release. “This also emphasizes the need to prevent ELBW men and promote healthy aging so that they can proactively mitigate these risks.”
Optimizing health during adulthood includes a balanced diet, avoiding smoking, sleeping and exercising properly, controlling stress, mentally stimulating and developing strong social networks, Van Lieshout said.
The findings were published May 17 in the journal Pediatrics.
For more information on premature infants, go to March of Dimes.
SOURCE: McMaster University, press release, May 17, 2021