- Nutrient-enriched formula for preterm infants offers only modest benefits over standard formula in immediate head growth and weight gain, with no evidence showing long-term effects.
Why this matters
- Preterm infants are at risk for nutrient deficiencies that restrict early growth, leading to efforts at mitigation using enriched formulas.
- Short-term gains do not seem to translate into long-term benefits in terms of later growth and development, conclude the authors of this update to a 2016 review .
- Most trials are quite old (
- They found no effect on time to regain birth weight.
- Low-certainty evidence pointed to some immediate in-hospital weight gain and head circumference increases (mean differences; 95% CIs):
- Weight gain: 2.43 (1.60-3.26) g/kg/day;
- Head circumference: 1.04 (0.18-1.89) mm/week; and
- No length gains identified.
- Outcomes beyond infancy were rarely tracked, but the available evidence shows little or no neurodevelopmental benefit associated with nutrient-enriched formula.
- No signal of harm, e.g., necrotizing enterocolitis, with nutrient-rich formula use.
- Cochrane review, 7 trials (n=590 infants).
- Funding: UK and Australian universities; National Institute for Health Research, UK; the Gerber Foundation; others.
- Bias risk, study heterogeneity, low certainty of evidence.