12 October 2000
Obesity and hypothalamic GH deficiency contribute in different ways to the disturbances of body composition in Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS); while both increase the fat compartment, the reduction of lean tissue mass has been attributed mainly to GH deficiency. Therefore, body composition measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was prospectively studied in 12 overweight children with PWS and weight for height (WfH) SDS >0 before and during 3.5 years of treatment with hGH (0.037 mg/kg/day) on average. In the long term, there is a net reduction of body fat from 3.1 to 1.2 SD, with a minimum at the end of the second year of treatment. WfH SDS correctly reflects body fat mass and its changes. The initial deficit of lean mass (–1.6 SD) is counteracted by GH only during the first year of therapy (increase to –1.25 SD). But in the long term, GH therapy does not further compensate for this deficit, when lean mass is corrected for its growth-related increase. In conclusion, exogenous GH changes the phenotype of children with PWS: fat mass becomes normal, but, at least in the setting studied, GH is not sufficient to normalize lean tissue mass.