Nutrition after preterm birth and adult neurocognitive outcomes

Sara Sammallahti, Eero Kajantie, Hanna Maria Matinolli, Riikka Pyhälä, Jari Lahti, Kati Heinonen, Marius Lahti, Anu Katriina Pesonen, Johan G. Eriksson, Petteri Hovi, Anna Liisa Järvenpää, Sture Andersson, Katri Raikkonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background Preterm birth (<37 gestational weeks) poses a risk of poorer neurocognitive functioning. Faster growth after preterm birth predicts better cognitive abilities and can be promoted through adequate nutrition, but it remains unknown whether variations in nutrient intakes translate into long-term benefits for neurodevelopment. Methods In 86 participants of the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults (birthweight <1500g), we examined if higher intakes of energy, macronutrients, and human milk during the first nine weeks after preterm birth predict performance in tests of cognitive ability at 25.1 years of age (SD = 2.1). Results 10 kcal/kg/day higher total energy intake at 3 to 6 weeks of age was associated with 0.21 SD higher adult IQ (95% Confidence Interval [CI] 0.07-0.35). Higher carbohydrate and fat intake at 3-6 weeks, and higher energy intake from human milk at 3-6 and at 6-9 weeks were also associated with higher adult IQ: these effect sizes ranged from 0.09 SD (95% CI 0.01-0.18) to 0.34 SD (0.14-0.54) higher IQ, per one gram/kg/day more carbohydrate and fat, and per 10 kcal/kg/day more energy from human milk. Adjustment for neonatal complications attenuated the associations: intraventricular hemorrhage, in particular, was associated with both poorer nutrition and poorer IQ. Conclusion In preterm neonates with very low birth weight, higher energy and human milk intake predict better neurocognitive abilities in adulthood. To understand the determinants of these infants' neurocognitive outcome, it seems important to take into account the role of postnatal nutrition, not just as an isolated exposure, but as a potential mediator between neonatal illness and long-term neurodevelopment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0185632
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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