Enhanced early nutrition for preterm infants to improve neurodevelopment and minimize metabolic risk

Principal Investigator:

Sara Ramel, MD (Department of Pediatrics)

[+/-] Show/Hide Collaborators & Abstract

Ellen Demerath, Ph.D. (Department of Public Health)


Preterm infants undergo early growth failure while in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that persists for years after discharge home. This growth failure is occurring at a time of rapid brain development, and has been associated with negative long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes. In addition, early growth failure is often followed by rapid catch-up growth in childhood, which is associated with later metabolic (obesity/diabetes/hypertension) risk. Enhanced early nutrition has been associated with improved weight gain and neurodevelopment in several small observational studies, but is not routinely provided due to hesitancy surrounding possible intolerance and concern that increased nutrition will lead to increased adiposity. Lack of randomized controlled trials on this question create concern that the observed benefit of enhanced early nutrition is actually the result of confounding, whereby healthier babies are from the start inadvertently more likely to receive better nutrition, and also exhibit faster growth and better health outcomes.The overall objective of the proposal is to demonstrate the feasibility of providing increased calories and protein in the first week of life to VLBW preterm infants, and to generate pilot data on the effects of this intervention on growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes.