OBJECTIVES: To assess body composition of infants with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) by using deuterium dilution and investigating the efficacy of early institution of growth hormone (GH) therapy in increasing lean mass (LM) and preventing massive obesity. STUDY DESIGN: One group of 11 children with PWS <2 years before and during 30-month GH therapy (GH group) was compared with 6 infants administered only coenzyme Q(10) for 1 year (Q10 group). LM adjusted for height (LM(Ht)) and relative fat mass (%FM(Age)) standard deviation scores (SDS) were calculated from data of 95 healthy children. RESULTS: Initially, LM(Ht) of all patients was below the normal average. LM(Ht) decreased by -0.46 +/- 0.3 SD (P=.03) per year in the Q10 group but rose by 0.25 +/- 0.3 SD (P=.02) per year during GH therapy, normalizing after 30 months (-0.70 +/- 1.0 SD). Despite low to normal weight for height (WfH), %FM(Age) was above the normal average (GH group, 31.0% +/- 4.5%, Q10 group, 32.4% +/- 9.5%). In the Q10 infants, %FM(Age) increased by 0.71 +/- 0.7 SD per year, whereas in the GH group, %FM(Age) remained more stable up to 30 months. CONCLUSIONS: Diminished LM(Ht) found in infants with PWS further declines during the early years. Early institution of GH therapy lifts LM(Ht) into the normal range and delays fat tissue accumulation.