Fortification of breast milk in VLBW infants: Metabolic acidosis is linked to the composition of fortifiers and alters weight gain and bone mineralization
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BACKGROUND & AIMS: Study objectives were to test (a) whether increased incidence of metabolic acidosis (MA) was caused by introduction of a new commercially available fortifier for breast milk, (b) if so, whether its modification would decrease the incidence of MA and (c) to analyze the impact of MA on growth. METHODS: Double-blind randomized design. Healthy breast-fed infants (≤34 gestational weeks). Primary outcome measure was incidence of MA (BE < -6.0 mmol/L). Secondary outcome measures were growth, bone mineral content (BMC), vital signs, treatment with sodium hydrogen carbonate and Ca and laboratory parameters (pH, pCO₂, HCO₃⁻, electrolytes). RESULTS: Part 1 (comparison of standard (SF) and new fortifier (NF)): Interim analysis showed MA in 1 out of 7 (SF) and 7 out of 8 (NF) infants, p = 0.01; therefore the study was interrupted; subsequently the fortifier was adapted by modifying mineral components. Part 2 (comparison of SF and reformulated fortifier (RF)): MA occurred in 3 out of 15 (SF) and 6 out of 19 (RF), p = 0.7. When data of all infants studied, those with MA had lower mean weight gain (median: 9 vs. 21 g/kg/d, p < 0.01) and lower BMC (1.6% vs. 1.9% BMC/lean, p = 0.04) at discharge. CONCLUSIONS: When fed fortified breast milk, mild MA spontaneously may develop in 20-30% of VLBW infants. A fortifier with an inappropriate composition may increase the severity and frequency of MA. Our data show that weight gain and BMC seem to be related to acid-base homeostasis. It may be speculated that inadequate growth of fully fed preterm infants is triggered more often by imbalances of acid-base status than previously expected.
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