, Volume 38, Issue 10, pp 1205-1212

A relationship between impaired fetal growth and reduced muscle glycolysis revealed by 31 P magnetic resonance spectroscopy

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Thinness at birth is associated with insulin resistance and an increased prevalence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in adult life. As muscle is an important site of insulin resistance, and because thin babies have reduced muscle mass, thinness at birth may affect muscle structure and function and impair carbohydrate metabolism. We have therefore used 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy to investigate the bioenergetics of gastrocnemius and flexor digitorum superficialis muscles in 16 normoglycaemic women who had a low (≤ 23 kg/m3) and 9 women who had a high (>23 kg/m3) ponderal index at birth. In the flexor digitorum superficialis study anaerobic metabolism was stressed with a constant heavy workload. Low ponderal index subjects fatigued more rapidly (3.3 vs 5.8 min); as phosphocreatine decreased, the accompanying drop in muscle pH was less than in the high ponderal index group. In the first minute of exercise phosphocreatine fell and adenosine diphosphate rose more rapidly (p=0.04 and 0.03, respectively). Gastrocnemius showed a similar trend late in exercise (this exercise was more oxidative, becoming more anaerobic with increasing workload). These changes were not explained by differences in body composition, muscle mass or blood flow. The findings are consistent with a decreased lactic acid and glycolytic adenosine triphosphate production in the low ponderal index group and suggest the possibility that the mechanisms which control substrate utilisation and metabolism in adult life be programmed during prenatal life.