Neonatal nutritional supplements are widely used to improve growth and development but may increase risk of later metabolic disease, and effects may differ by sex. We assessed effects of supplements on later development and metabolism. We searched databases and clinical trials registers up to April 2019. Participant-level data from randomised trials were included if the intention was to increase macronutrient intake to improve growth or development of infants born preterm or small-for-gestational-age. Co-primary outcomes were cognitive impairment and metabolic risk. Supplementation did not alter cognitive impairment in toddlers (13 trials, n = 1410; adjusted relative risk (aRR) 0.88 [95% CI 0.68, 1.13]; p = 0.31) or older ages, nor alter metabolic risk beyond 3 years (5 trials, n = 438; aRR 0.94 [0.76, 1.17]; p = 0.59). However, supplementation reduced motor impairment in toddlers (13 trials, n = 1406; aRR 0.76 [0.60, 0.97]; p = 0.03), and improved motor scores overall (13 trials, n = 1406; adjusted mean difference 1.57 [0.14, 2.99]; p = 0.03) and in girls not boys (p = 0.03 for interaction). Supplementation lowered triglyceride concentrations but did not affect other metabolic outcomes (high-density and low-density lipoproteins, cholesterol, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index). Macronutrient supplementation for infants born small may not alter later cognitive function or metabolic risk, but may improve early motor function, especially for girls.
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- Cognitive function
- Individual participants data meta-analysis
- Macronutrient supplementation
- Metabolic risk
- Preterm infants
- Small-for gestational-age infants
- Systematic review