This Week In The Bmj

Suboptimal nutrition in babies born prematurely reduces later IQ

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 28 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:c

Whether early nutrition influences long term cognitive function is a key hypothesis of biological and clinical importance. On p 1481 Lucas et al report on a unique experimental nutrition study in preterm infants born at a rapid stage of brain growth. They found that newborn boys fed standard formula rather than nutrient enriched “preterm formula” had significantly lower verbal IQ 71/2 to 8 years later. In exploratory analyses on both sexes verbal IQ below 85 and cerebral palsy were more prevalent in the group fed standard formula. This shows the potential vulnerability of the human brain—notably in boys—and signals the importance of avoiding suboptimal nutrition in preterm infants.