Timing of nutritional interventions in very-low-birth-weight infants: optimal neurodevelopment compared with the onset of the metabolic syndrome

Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;98(2):556S-60S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.045039.


Recent nutritional research in very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants is focused on the prevention of protein malnutrition during the first postnatal weeks. At this early age, nutritional protein fortification depends on amino acid infusion via a central vein because of the immature gastrointestinal tract. In 2010 new guidelines on nutrition were proposed by the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition nutrition committee. In particular, the relative increase in the protein fraction in the nutrition of these infants aims to prevent early postnatal weight loss, to prevent morbidity, and to stimulate neurodevelopment. On the other hand, an increasing number of follow-up studies in VLBW infants indicate that, in particular, those infants who show rapid growth after preterm birth are at risk of metabolic consequences and cardiovascular disease later in life. In this review, we describe the quest to develop a customized diet that offers optimal nutrition at several time points of growth and development during the first year of life. This diet should prevent early malnutrition, enhance neurodevelopment, and limit the increase in total body fat during the first 6 mo. We question whether one type of early diet suffices for normal neurodevelopment with a normal body composition in later life or whether we need several types of diet at various stages of development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / chemistry
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Nutritional Status