Despite advances in care, preterm infants exhibit disproportionate growth and neurodevelopmental delay attributable to both nutritional and nonnutritional factors. These infants have prolonged linear stunting and decreased fat-free mass compared with their term counterparts. These 2 metrics index organ growth and development (including the brain) and protein accretion. Protein, along with carbohydrates, fats, and zinc, plays key roles in brain development, and deficiencies can lead to linear growth failure, abnormalities in the growth hormone axis, and developmental delay. Optimization of nutrition, including protein intake, decreasing inflammatory episodes, and enhancing the growth hormone axis will likely improve long-term outcomes.
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- Fat-free mass
- Linear growth
- Premature infants
- Very low birth weight