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Lower leg adiposity in children with severe spina bifida increases risk of metabolic disorder

Posted:  Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Children with severe spina bifida and excess fat in lower legs are prone to develop metabolic disorder

Severe spina bifida and lower leg adiposity contribute to metabolic disorder! Myelomeningocele is a severe type of spina bifida associated with neurological disabilities in children. According to a new study published in the Journal of Child Neurology, children with myelomeningocele have excess fat accumulation in their lower extremities and a high prevalence of obesity.

The study was conducted by Dr. Tishya Wren at the Children's Orthopaedic Center of Children's Hospital, Los Angeles. It was designed to assess the distribution of fat in bone, muscle, and adipose tissues of the lower legs of children with meningomyelocele. The accumulated fat was classified either as subcutaneous (located just below the skin) or muscle-associated (fat tissue distributed between muscle tissues) using computed tomography scans.

The study indicated that increased adiposity in the lower leg region was mainly attributed to the accumulation of muscle-associated adipose tissue. This finding is significant, as muscle-associated fat tissue has been linked to insulin resistance and other metabolic disorders.

Dr. Wren explained, "We found that children with high level myelomeningocele have more adipose tissue, subcutaneous and muscle-associated, as well as less muscle and bone compared with typically developing children. These children tend to have mobility limitations and as a result, they don't walk and are inclined to gain weight."

Moreover, the specific health risk of adiposity is mainly dependent on the site of fat deposition. The total leg fat content is associated with favourable insulin sensitivity, whereas the adipose tissue deposited within the deep fascia of leg muscles has been associated with insulin resistance. These findings may help in understanding the long-term health risks associated with spina bifida.

The study also indicated that body mass index (BMI) was a significant predictor of muscle adiposity. Hence, diet and exercise may exert positive effect on BMI. Future research may be directed towards assessing the risk of type 2 diabetes among the spina bifida population.

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