Spinal Muscular Atrophy, types I and II: What are the differences in body composition and resting energy expenditure?

Simona Bertoli, Ramona De Amicis, Chiara Mastella, Giulia Pieri, Ester Giaquinto, Alberto Battezzati, Alessandro Leone, Giovanni Baranello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & aims Different neuromuscular functional domains in types I and II Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMAI and SMAII) could lead to differences in body composition (BC) and resting energy expenditure (REE). Their identification could provide the key to defining appropriate strategies in clinical dietary management, but data comparing SMAI and SMAII in terms of BC and REE are not yet available. We measured total and regional fat (FM), lean (LBM), mineral (BMC) masses, body water (total, intra- and extra-cellular, TBW, ICW, ECW) and REE in a sample of SMAI and II children, matched for age and sex, and also adjusting for body size to compare these features of the two SMA phenotypes. Methods 15 SMAI and 15 SMAII children, (M/F = 9/6 vs 9/6, age 3.6 ± 1.9 vs 3.5 ± 1.8 years, p = 0.99), confirmed genetically, were measured as follows: Anthropometric measurements [Body Weight (BW), Supine Length (SL), Arm Length (AL), Femur Length (FL), Tibia Length (TL)], Dual x-ray Energy Absorptiometry (DEXA) [total and segmental FM, LBM, FFM, and BMC], Bioelectrical impedance (BIA) [TBW, ICW, ECW] and Indirect Calorimetry (REE, respiratory quotients) were collected by the same trained dietician. BW, SL and Body Mass Index (BMI) Z-scores were calculated according to CDC Growth Charts (2000). Results SMA children had high percentages of FM and a lower percentage of TBW and ECW compared to the respective reference values for sex and age, whereas the BMC percentages did not differ, even splitting the two phenotypes. SMA I children had a lower BW and BMI-Z score compared to children with SMA II, but similar total and segmental FM. On the contrary, total FFM and LBM were significantly lower in SMAI (7290.0 ± 1729.1 g vs 8410.1 ± 1508.4 g; 6971.8 ± 1637.1 g vs 8041.7 ± 1427.7 g, p = 0.039, p = 0.037, respectively), particularly at the trunk level. Arm BMC also resulted significantly lower in SMAI. The measured REE values were similar (684 ± 143 kcal/day vs 703 ± 122 Kcal/day p = 0.707) whereas REE per FFM unit was higher in SMA I children than in SMA II (95 ± 12 kcal/FFMkg vs 84 ± 11 kcal/FFMkg p = 0.017). Conclusions This study has shown that BW and BMI Z-score measurements alone can be misleading in assessing nutritional status, particularly in SMAI. The differences between SMAI and II in total and regional BC are related only to FFM, LBM and BMC, and seem to be more linked to the magnitude of neurofunctional impairment rather than to the nutritional status derangement. SMA I and SMA II children can have different energy requirements in relation to their specific BC and hypermetabolism of FFM. Based on these results, our recommendation is to use direct BC and REE measurements in the nutritional care process until SMA-specific predictive equations become available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1674-1680
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Body composition
  • Body water
  • Nutritional status
  • Resting energy expenditure
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy type I
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy type II

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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