Nutritional needs of preterm infants: zinc and vitamins

/ / Mom and Baby

Preterm infants have lower reserves of zinc compared to term infants because about 60% of the zinc is absorbed by fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy; furthermore, they also have a lower capacity to absorb and retain zinc necessary for the growth 1,2,3.

Zinc is an essential element in the organic metabolism, cell growth and immune defense; it is an essential component of approximately 300 enzymes catalytic and it intervenes in the processes of differentiation and growth of nerve cells. Its deficiency can also impair cognitive development of infants with low birth weight for gestational age. The reduced plasma levels of this trace element is associated with an increased susceptibility to respiratory and intestinal infections in infants 4.

The preterm or low birth weight infants had also scarce reserves of fat-soluble vitamins and an increased metabolic demand of the water-soluble vitamins. Strong vitamin deficiencies in preterm or low birth weight infants are due to 5:

• reduced placental nutrition

• immaturity of the organs

• increased metabolic demands

• insufficient reserves



  1. Terrin, G., Berni Canani, R., Passariello, A., Messina, F., Conti, MG., Caoci, S., Smaldore, A., Bertino, E., De Curtis, M. Zinc supplementation reduces morbidity and mortality in very-low-birth-weight preterm neonates: a hospital-based randomized, placebo-controlled trial in an industrialized country Am J Clin Nutr 2013; 98: 1468-74
  2. Giles E, Doyle LW, Zinc in extremely low-birth weight or very preterm infants. Neo Rev 2007;8:165–72.
  3. Islam MN et al.  Effect of zinc on growth of preterm babies. Mymensingh Med J. 2009; 18(1):125-30
  4. The role of zinc in the growth and development of children Maria j. Salgueiro, Marcela b. Zubillaga, Nutrition 18:510 –519, 2002
  5. Vitamins for preterm infants Alison Leaf Current Paediatrics (2004) 14, 298–305


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