Optimising preterm nutrition: present and future

Proc Nutr Soc. 2016 May;75(2):154-61. doi: 10.1017/S0029665116000136. Epub 2016 Apr 1.


The goal of preterm nutrition in achieving growth and body composition approximating that of the fetus of the same postmenstrual age is difficult to achieve. Current nutrition recommendations depend largely on expert opinion, due to lack of evidence, and are primarily birth weight based, with no consideration given to gestational age and/or need for catch-up growth. Assessment of growth is based predominately on anthropometry, which gives insufficient attention to the quality of growth. The present paper provides a review of the current literature on the nutritional management and assessment of growth in preterm infants. It explores several approaches that may be required to optimise nutrient intakes in preterm infants, such as personalising nutritional support, collection of nutrient intake data in real-time, and measurement of body composition. In clinical practice, the response to inappropriate nutrient intakes is delayed as the effects of under- or overnutrition are not immediate, and there is limited nutritional feedback at the cot-side. The accurate and non-invasive measurement of infant body composition, assessed by means of air displacement plethysmography, has been shown to be useful in assessing quality of growth. The development and implementation of personalised, responsive nutritional management of preterm infants, utilising real-time nutrient intake data collection, with ongoing nutritional assessments that include measurement of body composition is required to help meet the individual needs of preterm infants.

Keywords: AA amino acids; BW birth weight; Body composition; HM human milk; NU neonatal units; Nutritional requirements; PEA POD; PN parenteral nutrition; Preterm infant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Composition
  • Energy Intake
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development*
  • Malnutrition
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutrition Therapy* / methods
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status
  • Overnutrition
  • Plethysmography / instrumentation
  • Plethysmography / methods