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Ruys CA, van de Lagemaat M, Rotteveel J, Finken MJJ, Lafeber HN. Improving long-term health outcomes of preterm infants: how to implement the findings of nutritional intervention studies into daily clinical practice. Eur J Pediatr. 2021 Jan 30. doi: 10.1007/s00431-021-03950-2. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33517483.

Preterm-born children are at risk for later neurodevelopmental problems and cardiometabolic diseases; early-life growth restriction and suboptimal neonatal nutrition have been recognized as risk factors. Prevention of these long-term sequelae has been the focus of intervention studies. High supplies of protein and energy during the first weeks of life (i.e., energy > 100 kcal kg-1 day-1 and a protein-to-energy ratio > 3 g/100 kcal) were found to improve both early growth and later neurodevelopmental outcome. Discontinuation of this high-energy diet is advised beyond 32-34 weeks postconceptional age to prevent excess fat mass and possible later cardiometabolic diseases. After discharge, nutrition with a higher protein-to-energy ratio (i.e., > 2.5-3.0 g/100 kcal) may improve growth and body composition in the short term.Conclusion: Preterm infants in their first weeks of life require a high-protein high-energy diet, starting shortly after birth. Subsequent adjustments in nutritional composition, aimed at achieving optimal body composition and minimizing the long-term cardiometabolic risks without jeopardizing the developing brain, should be guided by the growth pattern. The long-term impact of this strategy needs to be studied. What is Known: • Preterm infants are at risk for nutritional deficiencies and extrauterine growth restriction. • Extrauterine growth restriction and suboptimal nutrition are risk factors for neurodevelopmental problems and cardiometabolic disease in later life. What is New: • Postnatally, a shorter duration of high-energy nutrition may prevent excess fat mass accretion and its associated cardiometabolic risks and an early switch to a protein-enriched diet should be considered from 32-34 weeks postconceptional age. • In case of formula feeding, re-evaluate the need for the continuation of a protein-enriched diet, based on the infant’s growth pattern.

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