Early Amino Acids Speed Weight Gain in Premature Babies

Providing amino acids to premature babies immediately after birth resulted in significant weight gain when compared with preterm babies receiving amino acids later, according to a study conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

"Many of our premature infants are born before the last trimester, when significant nutrition accumulation occurs, as well as a lot of growth," said the study’s lead author, Christina Valentine, MD, MS, RD, medical director for neonatal nutrition services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a fellow at The Ohio State University Medical Center. "Our findings suggest that the first 24 hours of life is a crucial time for the administration of nutrition."

The study included 440 preterm infants born between 2004 and 2006, weighing less than 1500 grams at birth. 308 infants born between 2005 and 2006 were given amino acids within 24 hours of delivery, and compared with 132 preterm infants fromm2004 who were not given the amino acid diet. Those born in 2005 and 2006 weighed significantly more at discharge – 2,342 grams -than those born in 2004, who had a mean weight of 2,242 grams.

"Preterm infants often face acute diseases immediately upon entering the world, so in years past, their nutrition has typically gone on the back burner," said Stephen Welty, MD, chief of neonatology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "The more we learn, the more we are realizing that nutrition should probably go on the front burner, because the evidence suggests nutrition may play a vital role in improving their overall health, even in the first few days of life."

Neonatologists at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have developed a collaborative approach to providing early, aggressive nutrition for premature infants. The neonatal nutrition team, directed by Valentine, is comprised of neonatal dieticians, lactation consultants, peer counselors, pharmacists and a diet technician. The team assesses infants on an individual basis to determine their unique nutritional needs and prescribe individualized action plans, aimed at increasing weight and warding off diseases commonly associated with preterm birth.

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital