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Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Oct;74(4):516-23.

Catch-up growth in small-for-gestational-age term infants: a randomized trial.

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MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Child Health, London, England.



Small-for-gestational-age (SGA) term infants are at risk of long-term growth deficits.


The objectives were to test the hypothesis that postnatal growth in SGA term infants can be altered by dietary intervention and to examine whether there is a critical window for nutritional programming of the growth trajectory during the first 9 mo postnatally.


Healthy term (gestation > or =37 wk) infants with birth weights below the 10th centile were randomly assigned to receive standard term formula (TF; n = 147) or nutrient-enriched formula (EF; n = 152) for the first 9 mo; 175 breast-fed SGA term infants formed a reference group. The main outcome measures were weight, length, and occipitofrontal head circumference (OFC) at 9 and 18 mo.


The infants fed the EF showed greater gains in length by 9 (1.1 cm; 95% CI: 0.38, 1.79) and 18 (1.0 cm; 0.25, 1.83) mo and in OFC by 9 (0.5 cm; 0.1, 0.9) and 18 (0.6 cm; 0.2, 1.1) mo than did infants fed the TF; the differences were larger in females. The dietary effects were independent of the pattern of growth retardation. Breast-fed infants showed greater gains in weight and OFC by 18 mo than did infants fed the TF; however, these differences disappeared after adjustment for age, parental size, and birth order.


Linear growth and OFC gains in SGA term infants improve after nutritional intervention during the first 9 mo of life and the effects persist for > or =9 mo beyond the intervention period. Further information on whether catch-up growth is beneficial or detrimental to long-term outcomes is required before public health interventions can be recommended.

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