Bigger Babies, Bigger Lungs

Lung health of babies with bronchopulmonary dysplasia associated with nutrition and weight gain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The health of premature babies' lungs may get better with improved nutrition and weight gain, according to a study by University of Michigan researchers.

Premature infants have a high risk of developing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a chronic lung disease involving the abnormal development of lung tissue. In a study of 18 infants with a history of BPD, researchers found that babies with higher-than-average weight gain between evaluations also had substantially better lung volumes. Such findings suggest a link between lung growth and improved nutrition.

After almost a year of study, University of Michigan researchers observed little change in the average airflow and lung volumes of babies in their study group. However, nine premature babies showed above-average weight gain that coincided with improved lung function.

According to lead author Amy G. Filbrun, M.D., M.S., the improved lung function of infants with above-average weight growth is consistent with findings from other studies that examined the relationship between nutrition and lung function in other animals.

Although previous studies have shown that lung function in babies with BPD improves over time as the lungs grow, this new study uses a more accurate method to measure airway function and lung volumes. As such, it adds new information about the lung function of infants with a history of BPD where data was previously lacking, says Filbrun.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 8 babies born in the United States is premature (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Premature babies are at a high risk of developing BPD, a chronic lung disease with 5,000 to 10,000 new cases each year.

The University of Michigan study is to be published in Pediatric Pulmonology.

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Review Date: 
February 7, 2011
Last Updated:
February 7, 2011