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Open Access Research

The effects of varying protein and energy intakes on the growth and body composition of very low birth weight infants

Juan Antonio Costa-Orvay1, Josep Figueras-Aloy1*, Gerardo Romera2, Ricardo Closa-Monasterolo3 and Xavier Carbonell-Estrany1

Author Affiliations

1 Neonatal Unit, Hospital Clínic, IDIBAPS, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

2 Neonatal Unit, Montepríncipe Hospital, Madrid, Spain

3 Neonatal Unit, Hospital Joan XXIII, Tarragona, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, IISPV, Tarragona, Spain

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:140  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-140

Published: 29 December 2011



To determine the effects of high dietary protein and energy intake on the growth and body composition of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants.

Study design

Thirty-eight VLBW infants whose weights were appropriate for their gestational ages were assessed for when they could tolerate oral intake for all their nutritional needs. Thirty-two infants were included in a longitudinal, randomized clinical trial over an approximate 28-day period. One control diet (standard preterm formula, group A, n = 8, 3.7 g/kg/d of protein and 129 kcal/kg/d) and two high-energy and high-protein diets (group B, n = 12, 4.2 g/kg/d and 150 kcal/kg/d; group C, n = 12, 4.7 g/kg/d and 150 kcal/kg/d) were compared. Differences among groups in anthropometry and body composition (measured with bioelectrical impedance analysis) were determined. An enriched breast milk group (n = 6) served as a descriptive reference group.


Groups B and C displayed greater weight gains and higher increases in fat-free mass than group A.


An intake of 150 kcal/kg/d of energy and 4.2 g/kg/d of protein increases fat-free mass accretion in VLBW infants.

Bioelectrical impedance analysis; Nutrition; Newborn