Premature or extreme preemies are four times more likely to develop dysglycemia, or abnormal blood glucose, than normal birth-weight children after they reach the 30s, a new study has found. Babies born before the 37th week of gestation are considered premature.

The research published in the journal Pediatrics Friday, states that babies who were born weighing less than 2.2 pounds are also more likely to have higher body fat and lower lean mass in adulthood. However, the extremely low birth weight (ELBW) babies and their peer group both have a similar body mass index. The study found that 26 percent of the preemies have dysglycemia in their early 30s as compared to 8 percent of the normal birth weight babies.

"Because they were born early, the ELBW babies were living outside the womb during the most important developmental period for fat and muscle development. We think that might be related to our findings," Dr. Katherine Morrison, principal investigator of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics of McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, said in a statement. "It's important to know about these potential implications for the ELBW babies, so that we can identify ways to help those born premature counteract these potential influences on their health."

The health of extreme preemies since their birth at Hamilton Health Sciences between 1977 and 1982 has been followed by researchers at McMaster University, led by pediatrics professor Dr. Saroj Saigal.

"This is one of the largest and oldest longitudinal studies of extremely low birth weight children, but we are learning how that early start in life impacts them throughout their lives," Morrison, who is also the co-director of the Metabolism and Childhood Research Program (MAC-Obesity) of McMaster and HHS, said. "We very much appreciate the commitment of these study participants who have helped us with these studies throughout their lives."